Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Fortune Magazine - November 29 2004 - Get Employees to Brainstorm Online Although short, this excellent article by Fortune's Anne Fisher is full of interesting data. Some bullet points?

- According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, almost half (45%) of lucrative ideas—whether breakthrough products or services, new uses for old ones, or ways to cut costs—come from employees.

- Grace's chemical-manufacturing division has run 34 online campaigns to solicit employee suggestions. From those efforts a total harvest of 2,685 ideas has yielded 76 new products and 67 distinct improvements in how things get done

- Employees, responding to a campaign called Customers Do the Darndest Things, reported that customers were telling them about unexpected uses for existing products, leading the company into new markets that have boosted annual revenues by as much as $3 million.

- At Georgia-Pacific, management zeroed in on shaving the cost of the cardboard tubes inside rolls of paper towels. The company spends about $30 million a year on the components, that the "consumer really doesn't care about." Mill workers from among the company's 16,000 North American employees quickly responded with little changes that shaved about $1.2 million a year, or roughly 4%, off the cost of the tubes.

Some great benchmarks for all corporate innovators!

Monday, November 29, 2004

EUbusiness - November 25 2004 - Innovation is Europe's answer to China challenge: report This year's European Competitiveness Report, published by the European Union, touched on an important global trend that threatens the major industrial nations of the Western World. According to the report, the recent trend of countries such as China, which used to focus on labor-intensive goods and low-skill industries, to now become low-cost providers in high-skilled industries, is changing the face of the global economy.

As a result, the EU has identified that if it is to compete in this changing environment, it has to do so through supporting a strong knowledge based economy in its member countries - and in specific, EU companies need to excel at innovation in order to compete.
Fast Company - December 2004 - The Care and Feeding of the Creative Class Fast Company's Linda Tischler talked to the managers of several creative enterprises to find out what the secrets of managing a truly creative team was all about - this is what she found:

1) Recruit for diversity, but hire for philosophy - you want your team to be diverse to spark ideas and generate energy - but you must make sure everyone's aligned on what drives them with the direction you want to go in

2) Rehab the neighbourhood - change the team's surroundings to encourage them to do things a little bit different. "Light, space, wall art, and goofy toys are critical to the alchemy of the creative process"

3) Within limits, let them make the rules - Understand that the creative process is not linear and that treating creatives like line workers will backfire. Allowing them input into the setting of their own deadlines for example will have them more committed to delivering ontime.

4) Keep their eyes on the prize - make sure people are committed to finishing what they've started

5) Feed their heads - Keep stimulating creative's imagination through the introduction of outside stimuli: outside speakers, art and photo exhibits, and social events for example.

6) Teach them a new language - Communication is key - being able to communicate your idea to people outside your area of competence can make the difference in having your idea accepted. For example, Try giving your technical staff basic "business-speak" courses and vice versa

7) Allow time for blue-sky thinking - give people time to take creative leaps by giving them to work on projects of their own choosing - even those that aren't technically part of their jobs

8) Protect your team from creativty killers - "The essential difference between creative workers and everybody else is that their work product is a personal expression of who they are. As a result, they're more emotionally exposed than other workers and more vulnerable to criticism". It's important to explain why some ideas are no good so creatives have an understanding of where they went off the rails -- and how to improve.

9) Add libral doses of fun - "Fostering an environment where fun isn't viewed as goofing off is absolutely critical"

Saturday, November 13, 2004

eWeek - November 9 2004 - BPM Helps Grace Chemical Innovate eWeek's Michael Caton visited Grace Performance Chemicals to see how this leading edge innovation company used Idea Central. As he reports, "The division started using Idea Central two years ago. Since then, the division, based in Cambridge, Mass., has used the software to host 25 campaigns involving one-third of the company's employees to generate 2,500 ideas, according to Paul Westgate, director of innovation and the division's director of marketing. Of those 2,500 ideas, the company has acted on 131, with 76 resulting in new products and 55 resulting in new processes, Westgate said."

When it comes to ROI, Grace's Director of Innovation, Paul Westgate said " it might be bigger than can be calculated"! Not bad for a company that's only been using IdeaCentral for 2 years and whose typical opportunity cycle runs between 1-3 years in length..