Wednesday, April 30, 2003

April 21 2003 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.