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 : 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,'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: : 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!