Saturday, May 29, 2004

Give Creative Personalities a Chance Susan Solomon looks at how to deal with 'Creative types' and offers some tips on how to manage them. Full of interesting facts:

For example, The author ranked America's major cities by number of creative workers, innovation, diversity, and several other factors.

- The cities Most Favoured by creatives? San Francisco, San Diego, Austin
- Least Favoured? Norfolk, VA, Memphis, TN, and Las Vegas
The author also contends that creatives are frequently not the kind of people you'd expect but rather thinkers who "acquire their own arcane bodies of knowledge and develop their own unique ways of doing the job.". Imaginatik client Grace Perfomance Chemicals has a group affectionately called 'the crazies' who are people identified as being particularly creative that are now invited to almost every idea capture event to bring their particular brand of creativity to that event!

How to manage that talent? Keep these top tips in mind:

- Creative work takes time - giving impossible deadlines will often yield stunted work

- Creative people are their own worst critics - don't be surprised if they ask for their work back to tweak it some more

-Creative people bend the rules - and you need to allow them the leeway to do so. Enforcing a 9-5 attitude, risks getting you a 9-5 product as a result..

Interesting stuff!

Interesting stuff!

Sunday, May 23, 2004 - Is Six Sigma no longer enough? an interesting short article that claims that whilst Six Sigma is a great tool to improve existing business - it cannot create innovation. Although many companies continue to rely on Six Sigma to ensure profitable growth, people like Michael Hammer, founder of Hammer & Co., say that its overemphasis on the bottom line will hinder any innovation efforts.

Personally though, having spoken with several Imaginatik clients who are deeply involved with Six Sigma, I can't see why this has to be an either/or. I would instead say that Six Sigma and Innovation are two major tools for improving a business - and tools that should be given an equal weighting of emphasis to ensure not just an enduring profitable business, but also to ensure a constant supply of new businesses adding to that bottom line.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Raising Your Return on Innovation Investment Authors Alexander Kandybin and Martin Kihn make the observation that simply spending more money on innovation won't make R&D investments pay off - instead (insert breaking news...) you should be trying to raise the effectiveness of that spending.

To that end they have developed 3 pillars of innovation which they believe will improve the return on innovation investment of any company.

1) Understand your Innovation Effectivess Curve - Simply put, their research has found that increased spending on R&D is subjet to the law of diminishing returns - ie, each dollar more you spend gets you less than the previous dollar. Plotting this curve out allows you to then decide upon the point at which to cut off future spend in this area.

2) Master the Entire Innovation Value Chain - According to the authors, an innovation capability requires owning or sourcing 4 critical sets of capabilities - Ideation, Project Selection, Development, and Commercialization. Mastering these 4 elements will raise your Innovation Effectiveness Curve.

3) Don't Do It All Yourself - Superior innovators are learning to outsource segments of the innovation value chain and obtaining ideas and inventions from outside sources - usually smaller companies who have spotted a small niche that is initially too small or not profitable enough for larger companies. / Business / When innovation supersedes short-term results A very interesting review from Globe staffer Robert Weisman on Analog Devices Chairman Ray Stata's recent article in the MIT Sloan Management review. In it, he asks how can managers ready the next generation of products/services whilst still effectively managing the ones that currently generate sales and profits. He suggests that it may be more important for companies to measure their learning rather than focus on short-term financial gains which frequently don't live up to management expectations. As Ray himself says "''The challenge is to balance a culture of accountability in established businesses with a culture of learning in experimental businesses,". With business lifecycles getting shorter every year (current Fortune 500 company lifespan is 40-50 years and falling apparently!) - the companies that succeed are the ones who can transition in and out of new businesses and markets several times. This means accepting that you can't measure all your businesses by the same metrics. Instead, Strata says "''Companies need a system that helps them continuously refine judgments regarding the likelihood and timing of success, and also accelerates learning so that failing strategies can be quickly modified." - a good quick read.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

CORDIS: News service: "EU15 Community Innovation Survey" - Funny, it seems almost like someone read my previous post on the NZ survey and went out to address my concerns over the size of company vs innovative actions comments.

In this EU15 survey, looking at data from companies between 1998 - 2000, only 44% of the overall companies undertook some form of innovation activity - with Ireland and Germany leading the back at 65% and 61%, and Greece (28%), Spain (33%) and the UK (36%) surprisingly as the trailers.

With regard to company size however, small companies (10-49 employees) came in at 39%, medium sized companies (50-249 employees) came in at 60%, and apparently a whacking 77% of large companies (250+ emplyees) displayed innovation activity.

However, seeing as the greatest complaint to what most hampered survey participants' innovative performance was that 'innovation costs are too high' - maybe that sheds another reason why larger companies are coming out trumps on these surveys...they have more money to spend on it. Comments anyone?... send an e-mail to

Monday, May 10, 2004

The New Zealand Herald - Innovate and make money, says survey A Statistics NZ survey of over 11,000 companies with more than 10 employees has turned up some interesting results:

- 60% of the respondents had invested in equipement or trainig aimed at developing or introducing innovative products, processes or services

- 91% of respondents said they'd embarked successfully on innovation related activities
- 80% of those said they had increased their range of goods/services as a result
- 79% reported higher profitability
- 75% reported improved efficiency

In a somewhat more counter-intuitive finding, innovation activities were also seemingly more pervasive in larger companies - however, as the survey's definition of larger companies is "more than 50 employees" (which would still be classified as a small company in Europe and the US), I'm not sure that all their survey found out was that companies that had been more successful (and thus had grown larger than the others) were more likely to be innovation-intensive companies. Nevertheless - some handy stats to keep in mind.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The Management Roundtable - Phase Gates - How Many Are Just Right? An interesting piece here by Curt Raschke of Texas Instruments, who outlines his company's approach to product development using phase gate process templates (they use customised versions of the PACE methodology) - certainly a reccomended read for anyone engaged in similar type of projects as its always good to know what other companies are doing in this area - and TI take their NPD seriously - as the vast bulk of their revenue has to come from products less than 3 years old, thanks to Moore's Law and demanding consumers everywhere.

Saturday, May 01, 2004 - Careers - How to Encourage Bright Ideas A cute little article by Anne Fisher who talked to Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder, authors of "Ideas are Free", it makes a couple of interesting arguements for already proven best practices.

For example - why shouldn't you offer financial incentives for great cost-cutting/revenue boosting ideas? "Consider: A worker in a European wireless company stumbled across an error in the billing software that was costing $26 million a year. He suggested a simple fix, but his boss blocked it. Why? The company's reward system would have entitled the employee to a fat check and a lot of fanfare—and what boss wants that kind of attention drawn to his mistakes? " There are of course, many, many other reasons - several far more compelling for companies with more advanced idea management processes (for example - cash also kills collaboration - and collaboratively developed ideas are exponentially more likely to be great ones than those without input from other participants) - but it's a frequently unheard arguement.

There are other equally interesting arguements - including a rather lengthy baseball one to show that companies shouldn't just focus on "blockbuster" ideas - all in all worth reading as it only takes about 3 minutes..