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

Monday, June 09, 2003

May 2003 - Washington Post - Innovation in the Face of Uncertainty ( 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.