Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Notes on Innovation Convergence Conference 2003 - Corante BlogThe Corante blog, maintained by Renee Hopkins, covers the September 2003 Convergence conference, including a description of Mark Turrell's keynote on the Financial Impact of Innovation, known as the IOI.

Friday, December 19, 2003

A Tech Analyst's View of Innovation - "Innovation Management Is Real, But It's Not an Application"AMR Research recently weighed in on the debate about how IT can help drive innovation. As can be expected, they have taken a hard-nosed, skeptics view on innovation: "... most people subscribe to one of two beliefs: Innovation is a black box... or Innovation can be scientifically delivered". The real focus of the article is not on innovation, but an area AMR has termed the Product Development and Introduction (NPDI) process. The article goes on to describe the areas of the NPDI process that IT can support, such as capturing ideas in a coordinated structure (using a tool such as Idea Central).

The mistake in this article, if there is one, is to think about innovation solely as new product introduction. This one-sided view of innovation would exclude innovative companies like Dell who have historically not innovated around product, but around business model and customer experience.

Still the article highlights several interesting areas - and we think it will be the first of many 'IT and Innovation' articles.

Friday, December 12, 2003

SellingPower.com - The Value of Ideas author Michael Michalko has some interesting suggestions in this short article for those of you looking for ever more creative ways to reward employees for submitting ideas - although this article focusses on getting small quantities of ideas from salespeople - and thus some of these ideas stray far from the instrinsic/extrinsic balance necessary to get quantity, quality, and collaboration (remember - cash rewards breed competition not collaboration - and collaborative ideas are 75-80% more likely to be top ideas) - there are some very good ones in here too. For example:

- Design your own "Thank You For Your Suggestion" cards. Have them printed and distributed to your more frequent contributors. Ask the CEO to sign each card with a personal message. Stock up on instant lottery cards and include one or two in each card to show your appreciation.

- Offer "a penny for your thoughts." Buy a gumball machine and place it in your office filled with colored gumballs. For every suggestion (or every five or ten suggestions) award the contributor a penny to use in the gumball machine. Award a cash prize according to the color of the gumball that comes out ($2 for green, $5 for yellow, $25 for red, etc.). - Although this is cash based - the numbers are small and trivial enough not to have too deep an effect of collaboration - especially if you also allow everyone who worked on that idea a go ad the gumball machine too.

worth a quick glance

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Innovation Tools - How to make an impact as an innovation champion Innovation and Triz expert Jack Hipple writes this short, but excellent article based on his extensive study of failed innovation programs. He lists 6 suggestions for those Corporate Innovation Champions who want to succeed where others have failed:

1) Recognize that your social style (Myers-Briggs assessment) is most likely to be "N" (intuitive) vs. The "S" (sensing) which characterizes over 80% of corporate management

2) Recognize that your problem solving style (Kirton KAI score) is likely to be much more unstructured and not obvious to those around you, especially those in corporate management.

3) Be flexible in evaluating possibilities and options and help those around you do this as well.

4) Use both inside-out and outside-in thinking and help those around you see the value in both.

5) Look outside for technology, not only within universities and start-up companies, but also within parallel universes of technology which may be facing the same kind of general problems but are not direct competitors.

6) Use state of the art tools for problem solving and communication.

Definitely an article to read for innovation champions everywhere.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

HBS Working Knowledge... Sometimes success begins at failure
In this article, Henry Chesbrough discusses how apparent failures in inventions and new product development, have become astonishing successes. The history of Innovation is full of examples like Viagra. "It is time that companies anticipate the need to manage false negatives in their innovation processes and respond accordingly." The measures proposed by this article to cope with false negatives are:

- Review cancelled projects
- Expose projects to outsiders
- Seek external licenses
- Spin technologies off
- Seek external VC partners

I would add another measure which I think is very relevant:
- Channel diverse insight from the corporate social network to identify non evident applications for products and innovations.

Corporations can substantially improve their capacity to identify these opportunities when people across different functions contribute with their insight from different perspectives. Often, powerful concepts are discarded before they even get a chance of becoming a project. Leveraging the diversity of ideas and perceptions in the corporation, through open participation mechanisms as Idea Management, should be one of the first measures to consider.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Boston Globe Online - November 30 2003 - Out-of-the-box, out of style: Globe correspondent Robert Johnson wrote this interesting article that looks at the demise of creative out of the box ideas in preference for safe secure, and less risky ideas that have predominated the economic downturn. A couple of choice quotes from this article:

''Everybody in business is looking for a brilliant idea, but in a lot of strategy sessions it's easier for people to sound smart when they're shooting something down than adding ideas on how to make it work,'' said Linda Kaplan Thaler, co-owner of a New York advertising agency and author of the best-selling book ''Bang: Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World.''"


"Consider what passes for major out-of-the-box thinking by academia and major media. Clayton Christensen is being hailed by Newsweek magazine as the ''Master of Innovation.'' But his ideas are of the relatively modest ''Build a Better Mousetrap'' variety, such as fostering an improved refrigerator storage bag, rather than anything that would create a whole new aisle of products at the supermarket."

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Cheskin & Fitch Worldwide Innovation Study - Who's responsible for innovation? - DallasNews.com this interesting report shows the result of a survey of 544 executives on who's responsible for various aspects of innovation in their company - some interesting results:

Influential Trends per Team

Trend Person or team responsible for
finding innovation opportunities

(Trends listed
in order
of importance
for total Executive Cross-discipline Product
sample) Management teams development Marketing

Sustainability 31% 27% 47% 41%
Authenticity 39% 24% 18% 28%
Trust/Safety/Security 25% 25% 29% 28%
Convenience 19% 25% 21% 30%
Knowledge society 25% 22% 20% 17%
Mass customization 23% 19% 18% 15%
Connectivity/wireless 16% 25% 29% 11%
Cultural blending 15% 22% 16% 17%
Mobility 13% 15% 14% 20%
Simplicity 13% 15% 18% 13%
Time compression 11% 9% 14% 13%
Search for vivid experience 9% 12% 6% 13%
Wellness 8% 12% 6% 13%
Meaning of life 8% 7% 4% 7%
Social responsibility 8% 9% 8% 2%

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Drucker on Innovation This is a nice little overview of Peter Drucker's view on Innovation Flow as written by Dave Pollard. The bit I found most interesting is the "7 Innovation Sources" which Drucker has identified as the places where opportunities to Innovate are to be found. They are:

1. Unexpected Occurrences
2. Perception-Reality incongruities
3. Product weakness or needs
4. Industry and Market Changes
5. Demographic Changes
6. Buyers' attitude and priority changes
7. New scientific and business knowledge

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Business Standard .. Championing innovation in your organisation Noted author Robert Tucker writes this short piece that gives tips to would be Innovation champions on how to sell innovation within the organisation. Amongst the various points he makes are:

- Promote the benefits (growth, transformation, talent retention, etc) - not the features (it works like this, isn’t this clever and so on) - of innovation systems
- innovation is the only way to unlock organic growth, and the only way to sustain it is with an innovation strategy that has metrics, is comprehensive, and involves the whole enterprise
- Innovation initiatives require patienceand commitment
- Build a winning case for innovation by keeping current on this ever evolving field, by constant benchmarking of what other innovation adept companies are doing

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Inc.com | A Perfect Brainstorm Inc talks to UTexas at Arlington's Paul Paulus who has apparently delved into the science behind brainstorming to find out what is effective and why. Apparently, his research has yielded indicated such findings as the fact that ideas are better written down than said out loud, that the ideal brainstorm requires plenty of breaks, and that the best ideas come out at the end of the brainstorm rather than the beginning. Hardly groundbreaking stuff that - but he has also quantified some pretty interesting findings:

*Individual Brainstorming is better than group brainstorming (due to the extra distractions and group dynamics the groups impose on themselves) - as a result, groups generate fewer ideas that individuals

*The best results come from either alternating individual and group sessions, or "brainwriting" where participants write their ideas down on paper or electronically which are then passed around the group for feedback and to add his/her ideas and so on (This collaborative building process is also why the best Idea Management processes incorporate collaborative spaces for idea development - Research we've conducted on this agrees with Paulus' findings in that it results in ideas being collected that are severalfold better in quality and content than ideas collected with other processes and methods)

*Another big issue is in problem definition - "you need to be focused enough so the task is not too daunting, but not so narrow it discourages creativity" according to Paulus. Again, Imaginatik Research has also found similar issues - and one Imaginatik client got the nail on the head when he said "You really get the answers to the questions you ask". In other words, ask vague questions, you will at best get vague answers. Ask overly detailed questions, and you will get very precise answers. There is a quality/quantity balance to be achieved in idea collection

*Paulus believes quantity is more important than quality.

*Deborah Ancona of MIT's Sloan School rightly points out that ideas must be implemented in order to not discourage people from cracking their brains to help you out. Likewise at Imaginatik Research we've found that it is essential for companies to start Idea Collection events with committed resources at the ready to implement the results of the Event. Although you don't necessarily need to implement if somehow you aren't able to get a useful idea (although if you generate enough quantity, the chances that happens are minimal) you need to be prepared to act on them and have an active committment to do so.

Ending on a more fun note, the article reflects upon why so many great ideas are conceived in the shower... An excellent read, worthwhile the time

The Business of Ideas - Winston-Salem Journal an interesting article from the Associated Press which looks at the activities that IBM and a whole bunch of other big companies are doing to re-energize their research staff to create new and more wonderful things that they can use.

Monday, October 06, 2003

InformationWeek > Innovation > Immelt's Four Rules For Fostering Innovation > September 25, 2003 GE's Chairman and CEO briefly goes through his 4 Rules for fostering innovation. They are

1) Prepare the Organization to Innovate - I like this as a concept, although Immelt "prepared" his company by adding more engineers to his executive staff - which sort of makes it look like by "innovation" he is referring to simply technological innovation - and I would argue that technology, although important, is but one area to look at in the innovation spectrum.
2) Pick the Right Places to Innovate - again Immelt makes it clear that he's focusing very much on R&D in his definition of Innovation here - whereas best practice would be to spread Innovation beyond the traditional boundaries of R&D and into all aspects of the business where value can be attained.
3) Make Sure Innovation has a Measurable Return - In much the same way that the KM movement has been dying through an insistence on harvesting knowledge from employees for the sake of collecting it - innovation done for the sake of it is also not effective. It is important to have defined and measurable goals - and to look to innovate primarily in areas where there is a need or opportunity to innovate.
4) Use Size as an advantage - I'll expand Immelt's comments on this to include small companies too - there are definate advantage to being big - but there are also many advantages to being small - play to your strengths!

Friday, October 03, 2003

Fortune.com - Fast Forward - Microsoft Is Not Complacent About Innovation Fortune's David Kirkpatrick talks to Rick Rashid who runs Microsoft Research - the mavrick group within Mincrosoft that has now overtaken Xerox PARC as the most talked about innovative research facility where the technology of the future is being built. I recently went to a conference where Microsoft Research were presenting - and they do indeed have some fascinating stuff they're working on - some of which are now becoming commercially available. SPOT for example, (Smart Personal Object Technology) is looking at putting intelligence into everyday object. One of the first such commercially available objects is a Dick Tracy -like watch that uses radio signals to communicate with local sources and downloads everything from the local time, weather, your e-mail, your stocks, etc all into a cool little watch.

Needless to say, they have some unusual practices to encourage their scientists to be innovative. No budgeting for example (something I'm sure only Microsoft could get away with!). This article is definately worth a read - as is a trip to Microsoft Research's website to get an idea of some of the "crazy" things they're working on...

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Fastcompany - Magazine Article - Gradual Evolution - the need for a continuos effort
This little article synthesizes something that we believe in deeply: success in companies is the result of a continuous effort to improve and innovate. Miraculous quick fixes to a company's problems or great new products do not come by chance. Great companies are the result of the on-going contributions made by the people that worked and work in them. Companies that want to succeed should start thinking about ways in which they can foster and leverage their agregated capacity to improve. The limited capacity to finance new initiatives demands to intensively seek and evaluate new ideas, to ensure that the very best options are selected.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - Building a Better R&D MousetrapIf you are trying to work out where innovation is going, follow the leaders. But if you are a leader - what do you do? This article describes the pressures faced by Eli Lily and P & G and considers their approach to systematically bringing innovation in from outside the firm. If you have ever used P & G's Spinbrush, you may be surprised to know that it was not invented through their multi-billion dollar investment in R & D and innovation, but rather by a small outside firm that was almost explicitly created with the goal of selling itself to a company like P & G. Innovation is about new approaches - definitely keep a close eye on this trend.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - Numbers: Money In, Fewer Drugs OutDoes money buy you success? Apparently, not for the pharmaceutical industry. According to Datamonitor / PhRMA US drugs companies have increased R&D spending from under $5bn in 1986 up to over $25bn in 2002. In terms of what the money has produced, the number of new drug approvals from the FDA is only fractionally above its 1986 level - 25 in 2002, compared with 20 in 1986. Interestingly the peak for approvals came in 1996 with over 50 approvals. Track the peak back 10 - 15 years, the average time it takes to develop a drug to the approval stage, and you find that if anything, the more money they spend, the worse the situation becomes. Many suspect that there are huge inefficiencies in the process of drug discovery and development that are to blame. In our view, pharma R&D is ripe for radical innovation.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

2 Conflicting Views on Innovation

Although not strictly on Corporate Innovation in the process terms that we normally deal with here, I found it interesting to read the 2 contrasting "expert" opinions found in BusinessWeek on the future of Innovation in the tech industry.

Nicholas Negroponte, MIT's Media Lab Founder and so-called "futurist" has a rather negative viewpoint here - BW Online | August 25, 2003 | Online Extra: Nicholas Negroponte: The Innovation "Void"

Whilst an ever optimistic Steve Jobs of Apple fame presents a far brighter vision here - BW Online | August 13, 2003 | Steve Jobs: "I'm an Optimist"

i wonder which one is right....
MIS Magazine - Innovate or die An excellent case study on Australian company AMP and their efforts to bring innovation into their company.

AMP is one of an elite few companies in AustralAsia (others include Carter Holt Harvey in New Zealand and Hydro Tasmania) to have gone all out in the creation of a culture for innovation. This meant getting out beyond the traditional R&D dept and into the rest of the company too.

Some of the highlights of their efforts:
- CIO as champion of the innovation practice
- Close tie in with Employee Communication and Knowledge Sharing function
- Internal "Intrapreneurs" who mentor/champion change in business
- An internally developed intranet-based capture and tracking tool, as a forum for ideas and suggestions
- ‘conversation cafes’ to act as brainstorming forums to generate new ideas
- A Reward program focusing on intrinsic (public praise, exposure to new opportunities, career growth), rather than extrinsic (ie cash) rewards.

Although there's no doubt that their system has room for improvement, they are undoubtedly taking some big steps in the right direction - and the case as a whole contains some great ideas for all corporate innovation processes.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The Register - Inflexible Work Hours Kill Creativity A UK study of 1000 people apparently confirmed the beliefs of many chronobiologists or body clock scientists, who have suggested that if we don't listen to our body clock we won't perform as effectively. The study confirms that everyone has different periods at which they feel more intellectually active and able to be creative. Employers need to therefore consider helping their employees structure their day around when they perform tasks most effectively - especially creativity and other brain intensive activities.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

HBS Working Knowledge: Innovation: The Best Practices of Technology Brokers Andrew Haragdon (Aug 4th) looks at some of the best practices adopted by firms such as IDEO as they look to combine and create ideas to innovate and invent. In his this excerpt from his new book, "How Breakthroughs Happen", he's identified four intertwined work processes that help them continuously come up with new stuff:

1) capturing good ideas
2) keeping ideas alive
3) imagining new uses for old ideas
4) putting promising concepts to the test

Interesting stuff - although very much weighted towards the invention rather than innovation side of things in my view - but still worth a read.

Friday, August 08, 2003

INDUSTRYWEEK COLUMN -- Viewpoint -- Connect To Innovate This short, but interesting piece by John Teresko observes that many great innovators invented very little - but instead were able to make connections between ideas that are not so obviously associated with each other - such as Henry Ford using inspiration from the process used in the disassembly of carcasses in Chicago's meatpacking factories to come up with the assembly line concept used in the automotive industry. Interesting article with some fun examples

Monday, July 28, 2003

INDUSTRYWEEK ARTICLES -- Best Practices -- Immersion Therapy Author Jill Jusko tells of KraftMaid Cabinetry inc.'s continuous improvement program which includes the practice of sending people out to the field for months at a time with limited contact back to the company to learn as much as they can. Amongst the many benefits an approach like this has such as benchmarking, best practice sharing, etc - it is also a great way to introduce a perspective change within the company as the student comes back full of ideas and innovative practices they can adopt to fit the company.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I sent this post to a KM e-mail group discussion as they talked about Innovation recently. As it was particularly well received I thought I'd duplicate it here:

Dear all,

Well, this has been a very interesting conversation so far. I find it particularly interesting because I'm constantly going to conferences on both KM and on Innovation as part of my work - and it seems like more and more, the two disciplines are starting to come together. KM seems to be looking for a new market in which to sell its mainly 'soft' concepts whilst I was bemused to hear at a conference on the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation the first mentions of "tacit knowledge" as a topic of discussion. Of course, coming from mainly R&D backgrounds, the Innovation people are more used to looking for hard results - mainly in the form of revenue generating products - and so their interest in tacit K had little/no dialogue about its measurement, its nature, or how to grow it and exchange it - but more to do with how to get around it by allowing people to use it to come up with new and interesting new product ideas. My company has been looking at this field for some 10 years now - and having originally come from the KM side of things - it's been a revelation to see the two sides converging as we thought they might eventually do several years ago.

As far as innovation measurement goes, I have to agree with the previous posters in that, (like in all things KM nowadays), much of it depends on the definition that you use to describe innovation. We've chosen to go with a very simple one - "Innovation is the act of doing new stuff" - as part of that statement there is an implication that you are actually innovating with a purpose in mind, that you are trying to achieve something, that there is action involved to implement as part of that process.

With that definition in mind, we have found that measurement of innovation, unlike knowledge, is a relatively easy and concrete thing. Part of the reason I have always thought that KM'ers would eventually embrace concepts such as idea and innovation management processes was due to their being Dynamic Knowledge Systems (see this White paper on Dynamic Knowledge Systems I wrote last year for background if you're interested) - and as such would be a move away from the need to stick with soft measurements and move into the more credible world of hard financial benefits that could be used to justify further, equally useful, soft work.

As the implication of action is brought into the equation, the old equation "for every action there is a reaction" comes into play. For every idea you collect, build up and implement, there is a problem that is solved, a need that is fulfilled, or a process that has been optimized. Whether the innovation results in a new product (yielding new revenue), a cost reduction (saving cash), or a process improvement (saving time/energy/etc) - there is a before and after state that can be measured over the long term which is reasonably easy to measure.

What is harder to measure - and is a big topic in the Innovation world right now - is the value of your innovation-in-progress - ie the stuff you haven't yet implemented! There are several methods being looked at right now to overcome this:

Sunk cost: Where the value of the idea/innovation-in-progress is assumed to be worth the money you have invested in it to get it to the stage you are at.

Next Stage Cost: This assumes that if an idea/innovation-in-progress is worthy of spending more money to develop further, then the value of that idea/innovation-in-progress is worth the sunk cost PLUS what you are about to spend on further development of that idea

Expected Return: Here, a simple Financial futures equation is used to predict the future expected return from your idea/innovation-in-progress

Options: The most complex and probably the most talked about measurement currently - it uses options theory - used currently in the financial services industry extensively - to calculate the overall value of an idea/innovation-in-progress by working out the probability of success, the potential return, and the potential cost of NOT innovating to come up with an overall value for that idea/innovation-in-progress. (phew - tires me out just thinking about it..:p )

Using methods such as these and others, many companies have put $$$ values to their innovation pipeline, and to their innovation processes - not to mention also to better direct their innovation processes to where they are most needed through the use of a "portfolio" approach to innovation. For example, Bristol Myers Squibb were able to measure that they gained an additional $200 million in revenue from employee ideas - including one innovation, the GlucoVan - a customised van that toured across the USA testing people and educating them on type II diabetes (got to love ideas that get you both advertising to your target audience AND increasing the size of your target audience too!) - which they calculated a revenue of $50 million from. Grace Performance Chemicals have launched entire new businesses from their innovation processes - one recent one is now a $45 million business!

Best Regards


Boris Pluskowski
Director of KM Research
Imaginatik Research
+1 - 617 - 275 7140

Monday, July 07, 2003

Optimize Magazine - Open Innovation - July 2003: Author Henry Chesbrough talks about his new book on "Open Innovation" - the concept that "there are too many good ideas held by people who don't work for you to ignore. Even the best companies with the most extensive internal capabilities have to take external knowledge and ideas into account when they think about innovation. So good ideas can come from outside as well as inside. And they can go to market not only inside your company, but also outside, through others. "

He goes on to talk about a lot of important innovation issues - such as the need to accompany innovation with organizational change, and the importance of good business models and processes to innovate effectively. Quite a good article really and well worth a read.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Boston Globe Online - 8 June 2003 - Innovation is no promise of success - Globe columnist Charles Stein writes up the interesting story of Apple - who despite being the reknown for being an innovative company, has languished in the lower levels of the PC market - to the point that their stock is now in the same place it was 15 years ago. As conventional wisdom dictates nowadays that Innovation is the way to greater profits - Apple shows us that this is not always true.

Although to be fair, Apple's demise is almost entirely due to a series of bad management decisions, such as keeping its own OS as opposed to other more pervasive OSs - and in my view - Apple's Innovations are the only things that have kept it in business. Still - this article is an interesting read - and there are certainly lessons to be learned from Apple's actions.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Using Experts in Ideation

There is tremendous value in the use of expertise for idea creation. According to the PwC Innovation Survey, 11% of ideas for new products and services came from the use of experts, people with in-depth domain knowledge. Experts provide even more value in their ability to select, develop, and enhance other people's ideas.

In terms of idea generation, experts can be tactically deployed to help improve the quality of an idea gathering event. Some people are experts in the subject matter, others in the creative process. We have found that narrowly focused technical events can benefit greatly from the introduction of problem solving experts. W. R. Grace, for example, have a small group they call the "Crazies" who are invited to bring their particular brand of creativity to the most complex of events.

Idea building is another example of the use of experts. Many experts only reveal themselves through their interaction, an example of dynamic knowledge whereby the expertise is elicited as and when needed. Examples include ERP consultants sharing their deep industry knowledge for an event run at a professional services firm, and construction engineering experts sharing their knowledge of physics and the application of theory in practice.

Experts also play a valuable role in the evaluation and selection process. Most formal idea management programs have some form of review team, either a central group who performs a triage process to allocate appropriate ideas to relevant experts, or a project-based team who may need to draw on subject matter experts for particular ideas. In both cases the ability to call on people on a case-by-case basis yields tremendous benefits. Their knowledge is available on demand, and they are to a large extent protected from unwanted intrusions as the drive comes from the process leaders, not the individual idea contributors. Our research has shown that the on-demand method yields a 50% response rate from experts (i.e. Half of the experts respond within the requested timeframe). This is a relatively high percentage as these people often have no formal association with the idea management program. Interestingly the response rate is much higher for technical and engineering experts than management sources. One explanation is that technical people wish to demonstrate their expertise (and are glad to be given the opportunity) whereas management consider it an unfair imposition, not worthy of their attention.

Finally, we have done work on the use of external experts (consultants, vendors, suppliers, etc.) in the idea management process. Early results indicate that outside experts are 20% more likely to contribute than employees (perhaps because they are forced to contribute), and they often provide a different perspective to the problem at hand.

If you have any ideas, feedback, or concepts you would like to share, please contact research@imaginatik.com

Monday, June 09, 2003

May 2003 - Washington Post - Innovation in the Face of Uncertainty (washingtonpost.com) An interesting quick read summarising the findings of the annual University of St.Gallen's CEO Symposium. The big message that permeated through the conference was that the only viable response to times of uncertainty and deflation is to innovate, innovate, innovate -- and hope for the best.(note - you may have to go through a simple registration to get access to this article)

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Business 2.0 - May 30 2003 - Outsourcing Innovation Apparently, Procter & Gamble (PG), have a goal to have at least half its new products originate from ideas generated outside the ranks of its employees.They tackle this target by going to companies that act as innovation marketplaces that work in a similar manner to Imaginatik's Event concept - using what is termed "Directed Ideation" (see Idea Flow White Paper). These sites allow companies to post challenges to scientists and innovators around the world and then pay them for the ideas they decide are worth while buying. IP issues are, I guess, avoided by a series of contracts between company and marketplace and scientist. The importance is to realise how important it is to broaden the ideation audience to take advantage of perspective changes and old knowledge amongst others. For example - companies are forever lamenting the loss of valuable experience and knowledge through retirements and other employee attrition events. Most of these employees would be more than happy to continue to help the corporations they left however. Just think of the awesome ideation potential that would be held in say, an alumni group for your company that you could run focused idea management events on. Customers and suppliers are other common "nodes" that could, and should, be tapped.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

May 2003 - Innovation Management has a new Standard Bearer: Imaginatik's Idea Central wins Basex Excellence Award 2003 Imaginatik's Idea Central has won this year's Basex Excellence Awards and is recognized by BaseX as the "leading Idea and Innovation Management package on the market" - Read the full press release

Monday, May 19, 2003

Sun-Sentinel:To Rejuvenate your staff, encourage new ideas Marcia Heroux Pounds talks to Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak about their new book "What's the Big Idea" which looks at the importance of Ideas and the benefits to be had by reaping this untapped well of knowledge.

Friday, May 16, 2003

HBS Working Knowledge: Innovation: How Bank of America Turned Branches into Service-Development Laboratories - Stefan Thomke details how Bank of America's Innovation & Development Team exploited employee ideas and conducted live experiments using their Atlanta branches in order to innovate their branch system. Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Chicago Sun Times - May 5 2003 - Firms mustn't ignore innovation as they strive to survive - Author and Consultant Thomas D. Kuczmarski, puts forth a good arguement for not putting aside innovation during this period of economic survival being played out by corporations.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Strategy+Business - April 30 2003 - Reinventing R&D Through Open Innovation To increase the return on their R&D, successful innovation companies are finding they must complement their in-house R&D with external technologies, and offer up their own technologies to outsiders. R&D at large companies is shifting from its traditional inward focus to more outward-looking management — open innovation — that draws on technologies from networks of universities, startups, suppliers, and competitors.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Optimize Magazine - May 2003 - "A Formula For Sustained Success" - written by William Joyce, Nitin Nohria, and Bruce Roberson - the authors of the forthcoming book "What Really Works" - This article summarises the findings of a 5 year project undertaken by 50 leading consultants and academics. It's aim was to conduct a systematic analysis of the practices that create business winners.

The team analyzed the experiences of 160 companies over a 10-year period, from 1986 to 1996, in search of the management practices that directly correlate with superior corporate performance as measured by total return to shareholders.

Their results were that 8 practices - 4 primary and 4 secondary - were largely responsible for the success of the winning companies, who excelled at all 4 of the primary practices and bizaarely, any combination ofat least 2 of the secondary practices (4+2 model)

The 4 Primary Practices are:
1) Devise and maintain a clearly stated, focused strategy - ideally focussed on growing the core business
2) Develop and maintain flawless operational execution
3) Develop and maintain a performance-oriented culture
4) Maintain a fast, flexible, flat organisation - one that reduces bureaucracy and simplifies work.

The 4 Secondary Practices are:
1) Hold onto talented employees and find more.
2) Make industry-transforming innovations.
3) Make growth happen with mergers and partnerships.
4) Keep leaders and directors committed to the business.

Interestingly, the authors also note that less than 5% of all the publicly traded companies in their study maintained a total return to shareholders greater than their industry peers for more than 10 years. Well written and interesting reading this.

Friday, May 02, 2003

25 Ways to Innovate in Your Business April 2003 - Entrepreneur magazine comes up with this fun list of ways in which to improve your creative abilities by getting your creative juices flowing - both individually and as a group. Nothing groundbreaking here - but certainly a decent read for those looking at creativity techniques.
Innovation Stats seen on the Web : 77% of CEOs at America's fastest-growing companies say they are more innovative than their competitors. Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

April 21 2003 Forbes.com: The Innovation Factor: A Field Guide to Innovation - Forbes teamed up IP consultancy CHI to find the top small companies who are racking up numerous patents to find out how they became so innovative. The result is a great article with many great take-aways and lessons for everyone, regardless of company size. Some of these include:

1) Give people time to be innovative and work on exciting stuff they're interested in
2) Small ideas can make a big difference too! Recognise all good ideas - regardless of what they target
3) Keep people exposed to customers - it allows your employees to empathise with the customer and also to see how their work affects real people
4) Reward Innovation - look carefully at how you reward and motivate your people to innovate - both intrinsically and extrinsically (be especially careful with cash/other monetary based incentives however - they can have some serious demotivating and anti-collaborative effects too - see Imaginatik Research Note - The Perils of Rewards)
5) Capture Ideas!
6) Innovation with Execution is pointless
7) Teach your potential customers to be ready for what you will sell
8) Look for different uses of your current products as a starting point for an infinite number of new possibilities
9) Sometimes, the most innovative products are the things people don't think they need when they come to the marketplace

and there tons more great lessons to be extracted out of this article - a definate must-read!

Monday, April 28, 2003

Entrepreneur Magazine - "Losing the Race" - Joshua Kurlantzick writes this article that points out how it's not just corporations who have problems keeping up with the pace of change. Apparently the US Patent office is having issues with the processing of new patents. It seems that in the 1980's, the USPTO received about 150,000 aplication annualy - compare that to the now 300,000 average annual applications! Combined with a reduction in funding and a mostly paper based system, this has meant that the office now has a backlog running about a year behind on average. This also has effects on corporate America who are vulnerable to copying of patents whilst they remain pending.

But there is some hope that Congress will eventually boost funding, because "America's economic dominance increasingly relies on developing its ideas, explains Harvard Business School professor Josh Lerner"

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Center for Simplified Strategic Planning - "The Easy way to Innovate is - the Hard way!" - by Robert W. Bradford is a pretty interesting piece. More on the business strategy side of the equation, Robert essentially says that you shouldn't just look at "easy" innovations in order to build up a competitive advantage. Easy innovation encourage the commoditization of the innovation as everyone strives to catch up and improve on it. The only time this won't happen is when competitors don't copy innovations. Why?
1) They are unable to copy it - barriers to entry in terms of lack of resources, vision, understanding, etc
2) They choose not to - maybe they don't see it paying off
3) They are prevented from copying it - patents, etc
4) The competitor copies the innovation weakly due to lack of focus

So he suggests the following guidelines when choosing which innovations to follow and how your innovation strategy should be directed:

1) Choose innovations wisely - look for stuff that your competitors cannot or would choose not to copy
2) Prefer complex, difficult innovations to easy ones
3) Play up the difficulties and play down the payoff of your innovations - at least publicly
4) Spend the time and money required to prevent imitations - secure IP rights, etc.

All interesting stuff - and certainly worth a read for those with a more strategical mindset to innovation.

Monday, April 14, 2003

The Atlanta Journal Consitution - Coca-Cola Gets New Innovation Leader In a sign of things to come, one of the top consumer products companies hired a heavy hitting Chief Innovation Officer (Ed note: we need a good acronym). We are finding that many companies are 'upgrading' their innovation managers for directors and higher level positions, which is a good sign that the discipline of corporate innovation is growing in real importance.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

The CEO Refresher - Put Yourself out of Business! Peter Duncan of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning writes an interesting piece on the reasons to innovate which includes the main reasons why companiies don't innovate - Mainly because companies don't feel its importance to when they are already being successful at what they do (a false security); And the other reason being the knee jerk reaction of cost cutting existing products that are caught in a competitive squeeze.

He follows this up with saying that the "fundamental building blocks of innovation are IDEAS, KNOWLEDGE and A PROCESS for translating these into tangible services and products in the market." Pretty good stuff.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - Why It's Time to Take a Risk Well it doesn't come much clearer than this. Echoing thoughts that Imaginatik Research has long been preaching Business 2.0 are right on the money with this article - which looks at why the need for Innovation is stronger now than ever before.

Companies have used the recession as an excuse to cut back to the bare bones - commonly known as "retrenchment" - the act of cutting "corporate fat", increasing efficiency, and generally becoming as lean and mean as possible. However, retrenchment isn't a competitive method - it doesn't give you you a competitive advantage - unless, as Business 2.0 points out - "you're taking costs out a lot faster than your competitors are and doing so in ways that don't imperil long-term success. In other words, retrenchment can buy you time, but it can't buy you a future."

What will however, is the courage and strength to try new things, to go beyond your company's and market's current capabilities, to create new customer needs and demands, in other words - to innovate.

And there really is no better time to do so either - with labour and materials all going at fire-sale prices nowadays. It really is a case nowadays of "He who dares wins". A fun and well written article with some good examples stuck in there - very worthwhile the time to read this.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

HBS Working Knowledge: Leadership: When Bad Ideas Won't Die - The University of Paris' Isabelle Royer tackles the problem of why some companies insist on implementing ideas that everyone deep down knows won't work. She pegs the problem to the triumph of belief and faith in an idea over logic and reason. One of the main instigators of the belief and faith is the project sponsor - and I suppose the suggestion of having what would essentially be a corporate "devil's advocate" is an interesting one. Of course, my personal thoughts would be that the idea should've been killed off before it even became a project. Leading companies use various collaborative techniques to ensure that as many different perspectives as possible are exposed to the idea. Th effect being that ideas that turn into concepts and then projects have been fully thought out with minimal room for failure, whilst bad ideas are found and killed off at an early stage before any emotional attachment is made to it. In any case - this is an interesting article - and the case studies alone make it worth while reading.

Monday, March 17, 2003

vnunet.com Innovation stressed for business success Gartner Group's Michael Gubbins announced the result of Gartner's annual EXP study which interviewed 600 CIOs and found that despite budgetary pressures, companies are seeing the ability to bring fresh ideas to market faster than competitors as increasingly important.

Amusingly "some 55 per cent believe that it would be impossible to transform the majority of their processes or systems to a real-time model within a decade." - Which to me simply suggests that they haven't started looking properly yet as the tools and processes definately exist and are in use by leading edge companies.
HBS Working Knowledge: Entrepreneurship: Six Keys to Building New Markets by Unleashing Disruptive Innovation Clayton Christensen and his co-authors take a look at how to create new-growth businesses that last after the initial innovation spurt has passed. He comes up with 6 "lessons":
1) Disruptive Innovations Spur Growth
2) Disruptive businesses either create new markets or take the low end of an established market
3) Disruptive Opportunities require a seperate business-planning process
4) Don't try to change your customers—help them.
5) Integrate across whatever is not good enough
6) Be patient for growth but impatient for profitability.

Although the article pushes his book "The Innovator's Dilemma" a fair bit - this is still an interesting read for those of you dealing with emerging markets/businesses.

Friday, March 07, 2003

ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Building Ideas Through Collaboration

It is rare that a single original idea becomes the master plan for a successful new product or service. Raw ideas need to be developed, expanded upon, analyzed, and tested in order to extract high quality, implementable concepts. Idea building takes place most effectively through collaboration between individuals, even though the original concepts may have been created by a single person. Indeed, research conducted by Dr. Winston Brill of Winston J. Brill & Associates has found that the majority of ideas that lead to successful product introductions were initiated through individuals working primarily by themselves: 43% of ideas occurred while the person was alone, 18% during informal discussions with several people, and just 2% through scheduled group meetings. However initiation only refers to the initial spark of invention, rather than the development of the workable concept.

Imaginatik Research has investigated the use of collaboration features, such as Comments and Peer Reviews, within our formal Idea Management application, Idea Central. Based on research on over 35,000 ideas from a variety of clients, we have found that the rate of collaboration - the volume and quality of insights and comments shared by participants - depends on a number of factors including the nature of the event, the degree of promotion of the collaboration feature through internal marketing, and the attitude of the individual participants.

There seem to be two distinct levels of collaboration in an event: highly collaborative and zero collaboration. In a government agency, over 56% of the ideas received comments from participants, a high level of collaboration. A professional services firm found that they collected few original ideas, but the majority of the contributions overall were comments containing market insight and shared experience. Conversely we found that marketing events in a food and beverage company generated few responses, and events often yielded less than 10 comments per event, in spite of generating an average of 200 ideas per topic.

In some cases, there are strong business reasons for preventing idea sharing, particularly with invention disclosure. When that happens, the company is better off limiting the number of development participants in order to reduce the potential trail of co-inventors should the idea lead to patentable intellectual property.

One aspect of collaboration that seems to be important is the mixture of participants' personalities. Some people are better at refining the ideas of others, rather than generating original ideas. For example, the C.A.R.E. Profile, developed by Allen Fahden and Srinivasan Namakkal, is a method of describing people's natural tendencies in terms of Creators, Advancers, Refiners and Executors and this helps us appreciate the different approaches to Idea Management in general.

Idea building is an important part of the Idea Management process and our research has led to the introduction of a number of new features in Idea Central that are intended to increase the rate of effective collaboration, such as 'IdeaMinder' to alert contributors of new comments, and the 'Send A Link' alert to highlight interesting ideas and comments. As part of our ongoing research commitment we are tracking the actual use of such features to see how collaboration works in practice.

If you have any ideas, feedback, or concepts you would like to share, please contact research@imaginatik.com

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

KM Magazine - Volume 6, Issue 5 - Your Say: KM in research and development - As predicted, Knowledge Management practitioners are looking to Innovation more and more as a method to restore credibility (and budgets) to the discipline. This editorial by Simon Lelic of KM Magazine talks to several leading lights in the KM & Innovation field including Entovation's Debra Amidon, Convera's Graham Charlesworth, Unilever's Sam Marshall (who incidentally also has his own excellent blog called "Intellectual Capital Punishment"), Victor Newman of Pfizer and Arup's Tony Sheehan. Worth the read

Friday, February 21, 2003

Stop working, Start Thinking - surprising ways to stimulate fresh ideas in your business An amusing article this - I wouldn't go as far as saying "surprising" but author Charlie Errington certainly mentions a couple of unusual examples of how some companies have been able to come up with great ideas. In short, the lessons amount to something like this:
1) Keep your goal simple and clear
2) Don't be afraid to play
3) Be encouraging of your staff / participants and allow them to be creative
4) Remove all red-tape from the process
5) Team up

The Western Mail - Study finds direct link between innovation and success Cardiff Business School has just released the result of a 3 year study into the effects of business success. The results were that out of the top 1/3 of successful companies, the common factor between them was a greater emphasis on innovation, both in terms of R&D and wider innovative practice. For example, the survey found that 82% of high-performing companies (increased turnover and profits) introduced new or improved products over the three-years, compared with just 47% of medium or low-performing businesses. The high performers also had a greater commitment to improved flexibility (76% against 45%) and being first to the market with their new products (73% to 45%).
INDUSTRYWEEK - Experience Breeds Innovation A while ago I saw Herbert Baum, CEO of Dial Corp, talking on CNBC's "Squawk Box" about his need to innovate at Dial. His measures have included some pretty radical stuff - including setting a minimum quota of patents for all the scientists in his organisation. It was impressive to see his committment to the Innovation arena - and in this interview profiling him he talks more about this and other programs he has in place - interesting stuff.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Creating a Place for Innovation - Baseline Magazine has published a version of a tool devised by Imaginatik's Mark Turrell that is used to quantify how much an organization needs to innovate - and what it'll cost if your company doesn't. The full version of this analysis is available from Imaginatik - contact - and has already been done by several major corporations to great effect. In case the link above doesn't work, here is the link to the article on Imaginatik's web site

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Business 2.0 - Magazine Article - The Garage That Saved Whirlpool's Soul If you didn't catch this article in the February print version of Business 2.0, you should definately read this great story of how Whirlpool used employee ideas to achieve break-through radical innovation with the creation of their new Gladiator brand of garage equipment which is proving to be a great new addition to the existing product range (Whirlpool's first addition in nearly 50 years!). Whirlpool is now increasing its committment to the program with a 60% increase in the available budget. A great story.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

ABCNEWS.com : Inventor Dean Kamen an interview with the inventor of the Segway amongst other things, this article doesn't share a lot ofnew insights but I do like that he highlights one particular aspect of his success at invention: That he tries to solve an identified problem that people have rather than simply invent aimlessly. The same principle is the reason why the top Idea Management implementations aren't directionless, but rather take advantage of Directed Ideation to focus creativity in the right direction, thus increasing the chances that something useful will emerge!
In Praise of the Purple Cow - Fast Company Seth Godin authors this remarkable article which looks at role of Marketing in making a new product or idea truly remarkable. Indeed, the article is really about the need to be truly remarkable as opposed to being just "very good" which in reality is quite common. The need to stand out from the herd is nowadays more than ever and Seth makes some great points in the article on the need to incorporate this principle early in the innovation process. A useful article for everyone involved in innovation really - not just marketers.
Creating a Culture of Ideas Famous author and futurist, Nicholas Negroponte writes about the role that culture plays in the creation and development of new ideas. His premise is that "expertise is over-rated" and that to build a nation of innovators, " we should focus on youth, diversity, and collaboration".

Although I don't agree with the brashness of that statement (after all, you cannot create an idea without some level of expertise - even if it is only a basic one), he does put out some excellent thoughts that support the necessity for diversity over sheer academic intelligence as well as the advantages of a collaborative business environment. Definately a must-read article!
For Innovation, it takes 2 kinds of employees - written by Mark Watson, this short article talks briefly about the 2 different types of people necessary for Innovation: Ideation people and Execution People.

""Ideation" people create a multitude of ideas, want to try them out, learn by doing, and ask questions such as "what if?" and "can it be done?"

"Execution" people look for clear definitions of requirements, want to "do it right the first time" and eliminate less than satisfactory approaches. Their questions tend to be "Should we do it?" rather than "Can we do it?""

An interesting thought that would seem to imply that someone can't be both - but if taken in a slightly different way that would instead say that people have 2 different hats to put on during the innovation process - that of Ideation and Execution - would definately ring true.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

ORIGINAL RESEARCH: Event-based Idea Management

There are two basic approaches to Idea Management: the always-open suggestion box, and the time-limited event. Our research, backed up by several independent studies, has shown that the always-open programs tend to disintegrate over time. They are often launched with a lot of hype, but after the initial hundred-or-so ideas, the idea flow soon becomes a trickle of just a couple of ideas per week.

Research conducted by Imaginatik in 1998 found that time-based events yield a much higher volume of ideas, in terms of absolute numbers and quality. In comparison to ongoing programs, the yield is four- to ten-fold greater, even though events last typically for just four weeks. This created an apparent paradox: participants had less time to contribute but they submitted a greater number of high quality ideas. In-depth analysis revealed that the artificial time restrictions generate significant user demand to make contributions, and provides an incentive for people not to procrastinate. We also found that business sponsors are more likely to commit to a short event or project, and follow through with the results.

Statistics from our clients demonstrate the power of the event approach. A consumer goods company produces an average of 200 ideas per month-long event, compared with just 310 ideas over eight months collected with the always-on suggestion box. Every event produces at least five excellent ideas - as rated by the project-specific review teams - resulting in over 50 new product concepts since 2002.

The event-based approach is highly suited to short term projects that require input from a broad audience. Typical events include strategic planning, early stage product development, 'emergency' cost reductions, and crisis management. The event-based approach has also proved useful as a means for companies to test the overall approach of Idea Management in their business prior to full-scale investment.

In some cases, organizations have attempted to run time-limited campaigns without a specialized tool, and instead make use of existing software such as e-mail, Word documents and the occasional Excel spreadsheet for evaluations. This method can be sufficient when few people are involved in the process, but the manual process is quickly overwhelmed when faced with a volume of ideas. Just 100 ideas can produce 500 e-mails to reviewers, over 2,000 e-mailed comments, and so on, and so on.

So, is it really worth the hassle of involving people? Yes. Studies have shown that a diversity of ideas and opinions are needed to generate high quality solutions, and that only comes through the involvement of many people in the process. The point is that companies need to have some form of process support to handle the volume and quickly focus on the desired end result: a small number of high impact ideas that can be readily implemented.

The event-based approach can be run in parallel to the ongoing approach, and many companies do in fact use both methods with positive results. The same consumer goods company mentioned earlier has run 17 campaigns in 2002, in addition to their always-on system, "What's On Your Mind". The combination of the two approaches can be an extremely powerful way to harness people's brainpower on the most important business problems of the day, and to still give them a channel to share their creative insight as and when it occurs.

To learn more about the best practice to running events

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

ARTICLE: Times Online - Innovation "key to finding rising stars of business" Although the main focus of this article is to announce Ernst&Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award, there are some real gems in the middle of the article. Of particular note, are Peter Leach's comments, head of growth service at BDO Stoy Hayward, who describes the problem of business owners treating Innovation as an event rather than a process and details some steps on how to do it right.
ARTICLE: Leadership Tip - Encourage Flexibility and Innovation In their leadership tip of the month for December 2002, leadingtoday.org's Greg Thomas outlines four ways that flexibility and innovation can be encouraged in a corporation:
- Showing an sppreciation for flexibility and innovation
- Promoting a "systems thinking" approach
- Encouraging learning from surprises and failures
- Using Knowledge from outsiders

Friday, January 03, 2003

ARTICLE: ABCNEWS.com : An Innovation Recession? In this article first published last November, Peter Dizkes of ABC News looks at the effects the economic recession is having on the pace of innovation in the tech industry. With overall spending in R&D declining each year, some people feel that companies aren't committing as much as they say they do. However, the economic recession has also forced companies to make the departments more efficient and to reduce potential "wasted" dollars by allowing scientists to get closer to the customers in various forms of co-development arrangements. A pretty interesting article!