Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Vodafone innovation unit split up

Vodafone have taken a surprising step just 6 months after creating the “Innovation Unit” and have reversed their strategy, which they set back in April 2006, and have now scraped the unit and parted with its international head, Thomas Geitner, who developed the Vodafone Live! mobile content platform four years ago.

This change has been reported as part of a resolution to improve overall operational performance following poor share price performances. Initially “the ‘New Business and Innovation Group’ was responsible for adopting Vodafone's "mobile plus" strategy and exploiting the arrival of convergence, including the possibility of offering broadband services over fixed-line”. However, these activities will be split between Vodafone’s group and marketing divisions, within its European operation run by the newly appointed deputy chief executive Vittorio Colao.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

People's Daily Online -- Ten percent of enterprise revenue made through innovation in China

This is an interesting article with lots of stats and a survey of 1600 senior managers who generally believe that income generated by innovation will increase in the future. From a survey by the National Statistics Bureau 70% of China’s enterprise revenue comes existing products and services, 20% from improvements to these products and services and 10% from innovation. Private enterprises profit most from innovation at 13% whilst state owned companies’ revenue from innovation is below the national average.

The group of senior managers surveyed generally believes that income generated by innovation will increase in the future. To achieve this 87% are looking to investment in increasing human resources in the next 3 years, 73% in better equipment and 15% plan to spend more on patent purchasing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

End of Day One....

So – more interesting stories – this time from people like Jeneanne Rae and Sirius' Mary Pat Ryan – but the same themes still – Passion the vital ingredient for innovation; ideas are nothing without execution; innovation happening at the combination of different worlds and viewpoints (a point I'm sure will be hammered in tomorrow when Frans Johansson takes the stage). Clay Rockefeller and Josh Kopell also presented interesting stories.

All the stories today have been pretty interesting – hell, innovation's an interesting topic – and many share common traits that betray the truths of working in an innovative environment and taking innovation into reality. As such, I guess this conference has been a success (and I won't waste space here going over what so many other of my fellow Corante bloggers ( are covering in such a great way already) – but I have to remark on what a shame that questions haven't been allowed – for one of the greatest truths of the knowledge management era (and let's face it – that's what this essentially is – an exercise in knowledge transfer through storytelling) – is that people never know the full depth of what they know until they need to use it. Allowing questions might've released some of the more hidden knowledge nuggets the innovators here had to share – something very valuable indeed....

So the talks themselves have so far been the predicted mix between intellectually fun with the odd practical tidbit thrown in – hardly setting the innovation world on fire. So the focus instead has been on looking at the underlying themes behind the stories that people are sharing. The big one from my perspective, has been the constant mentions of the need for “passion” in the innovation that people are trying to make a reality. True, not exactly a breakthrough thought (I mean, if you're passionate about something, you're more likely to work harder to make something work and therefore the more likely you are to make something work) – but still something that is frequently forgotten/ignored in big corporates. In fact, the more I think about it – it's funny how people always say that the difference between big companies and small competitors is the small company's ability to be more “flexible”, and more “reactive” to changing demands when compared to the big lumbering machine that a big company can be. However the real issue is that people in a small company are more likely to be engaged and passionate about the business – they just work harder as a company overall because everyone is more committed to making that company's vision a reality. The trick for big companies is figuring out how to instill that entrepreneurial passion in a corporate environment that doesn't always reward it – but desperately needs it if projects are to be as successful as they should be. Enough rambling – back to the conference....

Oh if you want Larry Keely's pretty pictures:
username BIF
password: innovation

I believe access is only good for two weeks – so go get them now.
BIF – Day One


So am at BIF today – an innovation conference run by a local no-profit organization in Rhode Island with a bit of a twist: Rather than focusing on “gurus” regurgitating books and practitioners giving case studies, instead this conference focuses on the personal stories around innovation – presumably leading to a Steven Demming approved notion that the stories will aid the absorption of the lessons behind the stories. But does a day (or two if you stay for both days) of listening to innovators talk about their personal experiences really end up giving you something new and practical to take home to your company to use – or will it just be fodder for intellectual amusement. Realistically I'm hoping a mixture of both – but nevertheless, this intrigued me enough to make the 1 ½ hour commute, battling rush hour on both ends, from Boston to Providence to see the results. I'll try and post the odd blog entry over the time I'll be here which will also be the first time I think we've actually posted directly from a conference on a conference (I've posted from conferences tons of times in the past – but usually because I find my own intellectual creativity stimulated in the lulls created by duller speakers ;) ) - So let's see what happens...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thought you'd be interested in the new report from Deloitte called the "Glittering Prize:
How financial institutions can drive growth through process and service innovation."

The comment by HSBC's Chairman "Product innovation gives less than three months competitive advantage. Process innovation gives at least 12 months competitive advantage" reminds me of the innovation challenges our financial services clients face and how they use Imaginatik's innovation infrastructure to turn consumer insights into service and process innovations, that are difficult for competitors to copy.

A major recommendation from the report that we've enabled our financial services clients to excel at is "Aligning infrastructure. Innovative companies often have dedicated systems and tools to support the innovation process. Their performance measures and incentive structures align with the organization’s overall innovation goals – rewarding employees for figuring out how to do things better. They also use knowledge networks, enterprise portals and other technology tools to promote collaboration and information-sharing – a critical first step on the road to innovation."

The outcome is an effective innovation process that produces a "steady stream of sustaining and breakthrough ideas: new products; new services; new processes; new business models — innovations that enable a company to create and capture value in entirely new ways, ultimately leading to continuous revenue growth."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Kimberly-Clark turns to outsiders on R&D

As more companies enter the Innovation Arms race, those with maturing Innovation Infrastructures are looking to increase their innovation capabilities. One such way that has been getting a lot of press recently has seen the promotion of open innovation with the likes of P&G, Kraft Foods and now Kimberly Clark openly reporting their capabilities.

This change has seen Kimberly Clark look outside its Research & Development (R&D) department for innovation by doing away with their vertically integrated model of product development with remarkable results. For example, by turning in part to people outside their organization, Kimberly Clark has managed to slash the time to bring new products to market by 30 percent.

One of the key reasons for the switch in strategy was due to the demand on the product pipeline that Kimberly-Clark’s senior vice president and Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), Cheryl Perkins, adopted three years ago when she began leading the company’s R&D operations. Like many companies, the demand for continual growth is leading to an increase in the Innovation Revenue Growth Gap, between known and unknown innovations, as companies struggle to find new sources for innovative ideas. Kimberly-Clark has overcome this by changing their focus and engaging with outside parties in the development and launch of products. Last year alone, Kimberly-Clark formed more than 30 partnerships. This has created some remarkable results, including; Huggies liquid baby powder, Huggies Cleanteam that hit the market shelves in 12 months instead of the typical 2-3 years and SunSignals, which have increased the sales of the Huggies swim pants whilst reaching a wider audience.

Crucially, Kimberly-Clark has not forgotten the importance of people in the process. They have assigned relationship managers for each of the partnerships and from a very early stage they agreed on who owns the intellectual property, before unresolved issues get a chance to erupt acrimoniously. Furthermore, whilst product and technology innovations have been the main focus, Kimberly-Clark have also looked at other Innovation Dimensions, including design. This has resulted in Kimberly-Clark planning to open a design studio in early September 2006. Such focus has created a more advanced, disciplined and successful innovation process. This is a great read. Open innovation is on the march….
Five Key Strategies for Making Metrics

One of the key things for any business serious about innovation is how to measure it, what metrics to use and where/when to use them appropriately. These of course need to be tied back some financial measure; such as the Innovation Revenue Growth Gap with key metrics and targets agreed with management at all levels of the organization. Without these being pre-defined what are organizations really aiming at? Committed targets for metrics are critical to driving innovation; having metrics will not drive it.

There are some nice points made in this article.

Firstly, rewarding innovative behaviors as people correspond to the metrics that you measure them against is key. If people aren’t rewarded and recognized, why should they participate? Also companies need to have meaningful/representative ways to evaluate ideas i.e. appropriate metrics for measuring new products, services and business models.

I find ‘connecting the metric to the rhetoric’ a facilitating point. If an employee is solely measured on the day-to-day performance, such as a call centre worker, or year-to-year performance targets such as a salesman without any tie to longer-term innovation goals - they are clearly not aligned with a company’s innovation strategy or the company with them. This is a very short sighted approach. Innovation should not be evaluated solely within such time limits as there effects, if given the appropriate time, can bring great rewards.

Having metrics that supports or can support all types of innovative ideas is critical. Otherwise great ideas maybe lost or cast aside as they don’t meet the criteria or have a process them forward appropriately if/once identified. This is not just about metrics that people can use to evaluate ideas but about the people who assess ideas themselves and their ability to reform the process to allow a great idea to be properly evaluated rather than dismissed out of hand for failing the current criteria.

Likewise having different measures for incremental and breakthrough innovation is key, as they need to be treated differently, not only in how they are measured but how they are developed. Breakthroughs can be hard to measure with precision, as a company may not have anything to compare with previous experiences on its performance. Although this can be grown as a company matures in producing breakthrough innovations.

Innovation process metrics are lead indicators of innovation success. Without them, how do you know you have arrived? How do you know if the process is working, how it can be imporved or what value it is returning for your investment?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Big Blue Brainstorm

IBM have recently undertaken an open innovation event or Innovation Jam as they call to collect ideas from some 100,000 minds, including employees, consultants, employees families and 67 clients from the Bank of America to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By tapping into the wisdom of crowds IBM are looking to transform industries, alter human behaviour, and ultimately lead IBM to new business.

With IBM’s stock value remaining fairly flat for the past 3 years the impetus to do something different is very strong within the company. The company’s current reputation for constant incremental innovation hasn’t inspired investors. This commitment to do something very different is clearly singled by the company CEO, Samuel J. Palmisano who is investing $100 million behind the strongest ideas as they hunt for grand-scale innovation breakthroughs around the four topics of transportation, health, the environment, and finance and commerce.

We are seeing more and more companies embracing open innovation strategies to engage people through their various partnership networks, from employees families, retirees, clients, and suppliers to name but a few. In doing so these companies are turning to experts, like Imaginatik, to provide the necessary ‘Innovation Infrastructure’ that unlocks a companies potential to engage in ‘World Class’ open innovation programs. The landscape for idea generation is no long bounded by a companies four walls. These boundaries are breaking down as corporate innovators are extending their networks as they look to embrace the rich diversity of people from outside their organisations.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cheap 3D copying is enabling new Innovations

There's a fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal today on 3D printers that allow companies to create rapid prototypes.

For those of you who have no idea what a "3D Printer" is - imagine a machine looking very similar to an office photocopying machine - only rather than spitting out paper and ink copies of the intern's backside - it sprays out plastic resin and adhesive - to enabl companies to quickly and easily make physical prototypes of 3 dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) models.

These machines have existed for quite some time now - but the high price of the machine has meant that only a few companies have been able to afford to buy and run these machines. However, it now turns out that the price for a 3D printer has come down to the $20-50K range - bringing it within reach for most businesses as well as enabling a whole range of previously impractical business models and products.

Timberland use 3D printers now to create prototype shoes rather than waiting for modellers to to carve it out a week later - instead they can have a plastic resin version overnight.

Dassault - the French software company - on the other hand, are currently planning to build software that would enable kids to design their action figures. The kids would then go onto a website where they can order the figures they've just designed for $25-$30 a pop. At the other end, it's just a simple 3D printer, and a shipping and packaging service - both low cost services. Just think of the other possibilities for custom designed simple tools and products that could be made in a similar fashion!

We're apparently also not far from a 3D printer that can "print" out most of its own composite parts - the plastic ones anyway. The catch is that it can't (currently) print out the semiconductor parts - but it still means that to buy a second printer you buy will only cost you the semiconductors necessary to run it, and the cost of the plastic needed to print the other parts.

Although the article didn't go as far as saying so - we're obviously not getting that far away from a "Star-Trek"-like reality - where you can order something by name and a machine in the corner of the room "prints" it out for you in the time it takes you to cross the room. After all, it's more or less the same idea, just different molecules, right?... Bring on the future!

Friday, July 28, 2006

How Failure Breeds Success

One of the key components in corporate innovation is how executives embrace failure to allow their companies to strive for those all important breakthroughs. BusinessWeek have interviewed executives from the likes of Coca-Cola, Virgin and Intuit to find out how they “cozy up to the risk taking that innovation requires” on how they manage, embrace and communicate failure within their organizations.

Communicating the message from the top that failure is part of the innovation process has been something that E. Neville Isdell, CEO and Chairman of Coca-Cola, did at their recent annual meeting in April 2006, where he declared that “you will see some failures. As we take more risks, this is something we must accept as part of the regeneration process”. Isdell wants Coca-Cola to take bigger risks, tolerate failures and change Coke’s traditional risk-averse culture. Failure is so important to the experimental process, without it you simply aren’t learning. The key is to have intelligent failures, and preferably those that happen early and inexpensively which lead to new insights about customers. Reflecting on failure and passing that knowledge on is paramount, so many companies embarrassed by failure want to quickly forget it ever happened. In a recent celebration of failure by its marketing team, Intuit Chairman, Scott Cook, emphasized that “it’s only a failure if we fail to get the learning”.

A clear example of this in practice can be seen by Virgin Atlantic J2000 angled reclining upper class seats. Whilst such seats had existed in upper class, Virgin was the first to announce its offering to the business class. However, a year later British Airways trumped them and rolled out a truly flat bed for business class. Whilst there had been initial excitement about the J2000, some people complained about the sliding movement of the seat and general discomfort. In the end the J2000 was wildly unsuccessful and widely recognized as inferior to their principal competitor. However, Virgin entrusted their head of design, Joe Ferry, with a huge $127 million overhaul of the airline’s upper-class sears to reclaim their lost position. Their new version was a solid success and exceeded their target to increase Virgin’s business market share by 1%. This re-design saw the business-class seat leap beyond just being flat. “Flight attendants flip over the back and seat cushions to make the bed, allowing for different foam consistencies for sitting and sleeping”.

If top executives employ faith in ‘intelligent failures’, people can and will embrace risk. By noting errors on the job, not repeating them but learning from them should not only be supported but valued. This is a great read on how to manage failure within innovation. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 / Business Life - GE keeps innovation in harness

General Electric is a powerhouse of Global Research, employing 2,600 scientists on a site covering 550 acres with an incredible $500m a year budget. As you would expect from a company of its heritage, innovation is a key component in unlocking this R&D potential for GE. However, this is not a one off activity. Over the years GE have seen that even the greatest of their innovation breakthroughs, such as the light bulb, lasers and non reflective glass for optical lenses, become commoditised products.

“Companies need to keep innovating if they are to keep growing”.

Therefore, GE’s growth has been built upon its capability, sustainability and scalability to successfully innovate and bring new and better products to market. After all, as Mark Little, head of GE global research says “It is easier to sell good things than bad things”.

With the constant pressures from globalization and the emergence of low-cost manufacturing in Asia and elsewhere, other companies, if they are not already doing so, are rapidly coming to the same conclusions as GE and harnessing their innovation potential to drive growth in profits and market share.

Yet how do you keep 2,600 scientists from spending too much time and money perusing intellectually promising projects that maybe too difficult or costly to execute commercially and instead steer them to create workable inventions?

One of the key elements of this success has been GE’s decision to infiltrate there Global Research team with commercially minded business program managers who are given control of their budget, which creates an interesting dynamic within the group to ensure that the money is well spent. This article is an interesting examination, of these business program managers, as one of the key elements for a successful innovation program and is well worth diving into for a deeper read. Other key lessons and best practices from these business program managers include:

- Spread and manage risk
- Avoid overlap
- Communicate realistic expectation of innovations
- Develop clear paths for projects to market
- Be ruthless about failing projects

Monday, June 19, 2006

Champions Of Innovation - Have you ever wondered what ‘Innovation Champions’ do, who they are, and what some of their key innovation messages are?

Well wonder no more. BusinessWeek have surveyed a group of 25 ‘Champions of Innovation’ or as they are becoming more commonly know, Chief Innovation Officers (CIOs), who in the past three years have increased their numbers four-fold in numbers.

What are they doing?

These CIOs are charged with making “innovation routine, not random; central, not marginal; exciting, not scary. They educate, inspire, cajole, hire, bribe, punish, build -- all to transform their companies' cultures”.

Why are these CIO’s charged with such a mission?

The answer is fairly straightforward. “In an era when Six Sigma controls no longer guarantee competitive advantage, when outsourcing to China and India is universal, when creeping commoditization of products, services, and information hammers prices, innovation is the new currency of competition. It is the key to organic growth, the lever to widen profit margins, the Holy Grail of 21st century business”.

How do they achieve this mission?

Whilst there is no single uniform description for these CIOs, they do possess common traits that help them achieve their mission. Firstly they are customer focused – in its broader sense (although the article describes this more specifically as design and user-friendliness). Secondly, “they derive their clout from the top” i.e. the CEO is fully supportive and behind innovation. Thirdly, 70 percent of them are women, although how indicative this sample is of all the ‘CIOs’ and if women are more creative than men is not verified.

What are their key innovation messages?

From the broader group of 25, five ‘CIOs’ from Google, Old Navy, P&G, Hewlett-Packard and Citigroup were interviewed in more detail to accompany the main article. These are well worth a read, if only to see what a typical day is like for a ‘CIO’ in one of these organizations. Although I’m still trying to imagine how Marissa Mayer from Google manages on 5 hours of sleep! So what are some of the key messages?

Ideas come from everywhere, share everything you can (ideas, projects etc.), if you’re brilliant we’re hiring, license to pursue dreams, innovation not instant perfection, don’t politic use data, creativity loves restraint, worry about usage and users not money, don’t kill projects – morph them. Extracted from the ‘Nine Notions of Innovation’ - Marissa Mayer, Google.

“You can’t get the right outputs without giving people the right inputs” – Ivy Ross, Old Navy.

“Innovate by being connected and inspired by people around you. By creative by being transparent, open and stimulated by outside, global ideas (i.e Open Innovation)” – Claudia Kotcha, P&G.

Live and breathe with the customer – Sam Lucente, Hewlett-Packard.

Build a portfolio of small, ethnographically derived and metric-proven innovation ideas. Build Failure into the model. “Racking up early wins is key to getting widespread buy in”. – Amy Radin, CitiGroup

This is a good read and great insight into the daily lives of this newly emerging group of C-level managers. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Financial News - Yahoo! TowerGroup Underscores Need for Innovation Among Financial Institutions Looking to Differentiate, Drive Results:

Following on from the Front End Innovation Conference, players from the global financial institutions gathered in Boston last week to discuss, "Differentiation, Execution and Results" and what this means to their industry. Unsurprisingly, the strongest call-to-action in response to this question was the need for financial institutions to invest in innovation to drive competitive differentiation both with other financial institutions and adjacent industries.

This has been keenly observed by the TowerGroup, who highlighted that "over the next few years, emerging markets will provide more attractive growth opportunities than the developed world for banks that can be adaptive and innovative in their approach to reaching these previously under banked populations. The ultimate leaders will bring new ideas and best practices both to and from their global expansion."

This is a key point for CEOs who are looking to gain true market leadership position. Consequently, it is expected that there will be a separation from the leaders, who engage with new ideas and embrace best innovation practices and the followers who do not, as companies enter The Innovation Arms Race.

Furthermore, "there has been a resurgence in innovation in the global capital markets, in many cases disrupting long-stagnant business models and driving new and sustainable growth. Innovative players are leveraging the evolution of new products like derivatives and hedge funds, revolutionizing new services in retirement income planning, and implementing new processes that better manage such diverse areas as market data and operational risk."

The message is clear. Companies need to innovate to drive competitive differentiation in order to continue the delivery of value to their customers, whilst sustaining the high levels of performance and return that their shareholders (and like) demand.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Leader: The business of innovation - IT Director - Breaking Business and Technology News at

We have all heard how IT is becoming a commodity and being outsourced to areas in the world such as India. A new report out from Gartner highlights the seriousness of the problem for CIO (in this case Chief Information Officer) and recommends that how they need to focus more energy on innovation and becoming better aligned with other business teams outside of IT as sources of ideas and inspiration. I couldn't agree more.

One of the key point the report highlights is that people outside of IT's inner circle don't have any preconceived notions about its limits. Diversity is such a key ingredient in innovation. Ask the same people the same questions to solving a problem and you will end-up with the same answers. If you can tap into a diverse employee base of people who have different relationships with customers, a company's products/services and ask them the same question the results are very different, and will produce new and innovative solutions.

Gloomy predictions are ahead for any CIOs who do not take this seriously. However all is not lost, CIOs can tap into these relationships. Imaginatik Research has produced a white paper on this very topic "A new approach to idea management". This makes good reading for any CIO's and others who need to understand how they can tackle innovation and tap into this rich resource of diversity within their company.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Fear of Innovation

It's always interesting to see how despite all the talk and bravado that so many CEOs are giving on how innovation is of "top importance" to their innovation (you only have to watch any CEO interview on CNBC, or read one of the by now hundreds of surveys written by every consulting company imaginable to see this in action) - very few CEOs are actually doing innovation.

The reason for this is several fold - but mainly various forms of Fear - especially the Fear of Change and the Fear of Risk.

For the longest time now, we , as business people, have known about the effect of change on an organization - we've even come up with entire books, divisions, and consulting practices designed to manage the effects of change. But innovation as a topic goes beyond that - for the real promise of what innovation is trying to achieve is to institutionalize regular and sustainable change.

Embracing Innovation means embracing and enforcing a commitment to be constantly changing and adapting to stay ahead of the game - and that can be a scary proposition for lesser CEOs. Not only that, but Innovation has the power to change not just what you sell and how you sell it, but also the power to change the very business itself. How hard must it be running a Forestry company that innovates itself into the cellphone business? Or how about the change from making typewriters to outsourced business services?

Not all companies are facing the same levels of change that Nokia and IBM (the two examples above) have gone through to be where they are now - but they will do. Almost every large company in existence that has been around for more than 100 years is no longer doing what they originally started off doing. Embracing innovation is more than a short term strategy for the wise CEO - it's a long term recipe to leaving a legacy.

Innovation can be a a risky exercise (especially if you don't choose your partners wisely!) that requires substantial investment and experimentation and that doesn't always guarantee the immediate payback that more risk adverse managers look for. However - as many CEOs are finding out - the risk of not innovating is far greater than any other alternative - the market needs change, the market demands change, the market rewards change.

You simply cannot deliver the ambitious growth targets that the markets demand by doing business as usual, by looking for incremental changes and mere line extensions, by hoping that innovations just rise to the top. Innovation by accident is not a strategy - it's a recipe for demise.

As the market gains speed and the pace of Innovation and change increases, the necessary complexity of change needed to gain traction in the market is also increasing (get the recent Innovation Dimensions Research Report from for more). Lazy and inefficient innovators are punished by short innovation advantage times (ie the time for which any particular innovation provides a unique and substantial advantage in your competitive landscape) and the discipline and effort required by companies to enter the Innovation Arms Race gets higher.

So the question really is - can you afford to let these fears dominate your business? The longer you wait to take on the innovation challenge your company faces, the harder it will be for you to catch up to your competitors who move now.
Optimize Magazine - "Top-down Innovation" - May 2006

An interesting article from Optimize's Bob Violino that looks at what potential barriers CEOs need to overcome to push the innovation agenda in their companies.

Some of the most interesting findings are from the recent IBM Consulting
survey of 765 CEOs that found out that "Without a supportive corporate culture, proper funding for investment, and a cooperative workforce, even the best plans for innovation will

The article as a whole has some very interesting insights, albeit with a bit
of a heavy technology bend on it (not surprising considering the bulk of
Optimize's readers are in IT), but the three charts provided by IBM were of
particular interest: 

I frequently see culture continuously blamed for a lack of innovation within
a company, yet in reality culture is rarely ever the real culprit. In the
triumvate of key innovation factors (Leadership, Culture, Processes) - the
cultural differences between the top and bottom companies is not that great. I
don't know if that's a residue from the knowledge management days when everyone
was hell-bent on improving knowledge flow, increasing collaborative work
practices, and dissuading knowledge hoarding - but the simple fact of the matter
is that most companies have employees who have absolutely no problem or lack of
desire to contribute ideas to help the business. (see the chart below to see the
proof of that!) - rather the problem is almost always that they lack the
necessary processes to allow them to contribute in meaningful and effective
manners - or they lack leadership that truly encourages and supports innovation activities.



In addition to inadvertently laying to rest the "culture issue" - I
also found the above chart interesting to see the increasing importance of Open
Innovation - especially the somewhat controversial recent idea of collaborating
with competitors.

It was also very interesting to see an increasing number of CEOs now focusing
on Business Model Innovation - which would suggest that as innovation is
becoming more ingrained in the organisation, companies are beginning to look for
innovations that will have a longer lasting impact on the business.

Great stuff!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The World's Most Innovative Companies - Following on from Global Fortune's 'Most Admired for Innovation 2006' list BusinessWeek and Boston Consulting have lifted up the Hood on these Innovation companies to examine and share some of the best-practices in how they are achieving this.

There are many elements in this must read article that stood out for me including:

- Innovation Dimensions
- Innovation Metrics
- Corporate Change
- Innovation Obstacles
- The Wisdom of Crowds
- Rewards
- Ethnography

It's great to hear that more companies are realizing innovation isn’t just about developing new products and occurs across a whole host of 'Innovation Dimensions' such as technologies, strategies and business models to name but a few. This highlights how corporate innovation is changing and taking these “organizations built for efficiency and rewiring them for growth and creativity”.
If you would like to read more about ‘Innovation Dimensions’, Imaginatik Research has identified 20 different types and has produced a research report upon the topic. To get a copy of the full research report on ‘Innovation Dimension’ by Imaginatik Research, please email

With the widening of this pool of ideas the challenge for corporate innovators has now become about selecting and executing the right ideas and bringing them to market in record time. This is why measuring innovation through metrics is so vital. Innovation metrics are fundamental for organizations to be fully and properly cognitive of how their innovation process is performing and delivering.

However, there is a lot of debate on which metrics to use, such as the ratio of products that succeed, or the ROI of innovation projects and how to use them. This report highlights that company’s need between 8 and 12 innovation metrics, which could include numbers driven as well as subjective assessments. Thankfully some two thirds of managers in the report highlighted that metrics were used to select the right idea to fund and develop. Alarmingly though only 47% of them used them sporadically after a product or service was launched. This topic also opens up the debate about tying to tie incentives and rewards to metrics, which may then lead to inappropriate behavior by managers as they play the system.

This is good read and opens up a lot of debates as well as giving a glimpse on some innovation best-practices.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gartner Voice: New Approaches to Innovation - For those of you who are always on the go, Gartner have produced a concise 10 minute Podcast (MP3 audio file) on the New Approaches to Innovation.

This discussion examines these new approaches and some of the toolsets that have been seen to underpin innovation over the past 4 years which include:

1. Different commitment to the concept of innovation
2. Innovation happening differently - experiencing more collaboration both internal & external.
3. IT playing a stronger role in setting up an ‘Innovation Infrastructure’.

These three points combine to make a very important statement that to be successful in innovation, companies need to view innovation as a process that can be understood and improved upon, not only in terms of investment in technology but also in the behaviors of people. Critically I would add it is equally important to measure innovation.

This is an interesting presentation of insights into the new innovation approaches companies are adopting today. Download, listen and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dawn Of The Idea Czar - Following the discussions we have had in the Imaginatik Research office around recruiting and attrition rates within innovation teams (see Mark Turrell's blog on the subject I read this article with particular interest. This builds on some of these discussions and looks at the particular need of companies to appoint a CIO (where the 'I' stands for innovation) to drive the

"thirst for internal growth across Corporate America that has made innovation a critical management mandate".

Interestingly, the appointment of a CIO is one of the critical ingredients that we have also identified at Imaginatik Research for company's and CEOs wishing to be successful at innovation.

These CIO's or Idea Czars are appearing in a variety of companies including AMD, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Humana to name but a few. In addition, it has been observed that these posts have increased four-fold in the last three years. Interestingly the qualities these new CIOs have are quite varied and include "a diverse experience, gregarious personality and a penchant for disrupting traditional ways of thinking". Furthermore, they seem to require a blend of different skills to become a CIO. For example AMD's Billy Edwards is seen as part marketer, technologist, strategist and business person.

The importance of applying innovation across more than one dimension within a company is not lost on the CIO as they look to encompass many aspects including new products, new business models, customer insights and shaping a more creative culture. This is such a critical point (this was discussed in the recent Quarterly edition of the Corporate Innovation Newsletter) for any innovation program - you need to look at all of innovation dimensions, "The most powerful [innovations] cross a lot of boundaries".

And the rewards for these new CIOs? Candidates are drawn by the high visibility of the position and the rewards that could accompany success. This isn't innovation for innovation sake; this is making new things happen that adds value to companies through a new, dynamic and exciting role that comes with the opportunity to really make a visible difference in the corporate world.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Blinding Science: China's Race to Innovate - This article examines China's innovation plans and attempts to look under the public veneer of the popular press.

The Government is very much at the heart of innovation program - that much is clear. They are pushing diverse areas of science and engineering in traditional and new markets - many without the restrictions (e.g. stem cells) of the West in an attempt to get ahead of the competition. The funding levels for R&D are also reported to rise to the same levels as Japan and USA by 2020. Furthermore, "By 2050 China aims to become the biggest player in Science". - China is making a very public announcement of its intent that is clear. However, is this all achievable? Not quite.

The article points to many road-blocks, such as a lack of English speaking engineers and scientists and China's lax attitude to counterfeiting, which needs improving to safeguard intellectual property. Whilst all of this is being driven by the government, foreign companies are contributing, too. SAP is planning to open an R&D operation and Motorola are opening another centre to add to the 16 they already have. An Interesting observation was noted by Colin Giles, Senior VP and manager of China handset business for Nokia that design plays a much greater role in purchase behavior.

Will all these ambitious targets be met? Many don't think so. I hope however, that some attention is given to the environment. Thankfully, this article points to the need for China to find a more sustainable model for growth - if driven by economic reasons rather than concern for the environment.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Innovation Briefing: Innovation in the Boardroom - This is an interesting article which examines the shift of innovation from the periphery of many corporate agendas to it becoming a core element for strategic growth. Specifically it focuses on who has the overall responsibility for innovation and how this has moved from its traditional homelands towards the CEO or a new Chief Innovation Officer (CIO).

This change is something we have observed in particular at Imaginatik Research with the people we work. In addition, you only have to look at the job adverts in recent years to see the rise in CIO creation/recruitment. Interestingly this article highlights the three different roles that CIOs are operating within at these companies:

Role 1 - Leading the development and introduction of innovation
Role 2 - Helping move the innovation agenda into new spaces
Role 3 - Seeding the future

These three roles remind me of the Orchid Model Developed by Imaginatik Research , which identified four personality types of Doer, Creator, Helper and Inquisitor within idea management and innovation.

Role 1 is primarily a doer role.
Role 2 is a more of a helper role.
Role 3 is a creator role.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New era of innovation
Toyota's Scion aimed at younger buyers looking for the unconventional

This is an interesting example of Customer Innovation and Pricing Model Innovation in an industry that is currently facing tough challenges. Through the production of a highly customizable car with a non-negotiable price, Nissan are hoping to attract young buyers to a market who are looking for something other than a conventional car.
Apple Marks 30 Years of Innovation - This is a good overview article that describes the innovation journey of Apple over the past 30 years. Happy Birthday Apple!
CIO Innovation Rising: This is a long article that has some interesting messages for CIOs who are seemingly trapped in operational efficiencies and continuous improvement programs, where the innovation juice has just about been squeezed out of them.

Whilst these programs benefit from being easily quantifiable the new challenge is to refocus CIOs thinking, culture and processes towards IT innovation and to improve their wider engagement with the business in areas of customers and markets. I cannot concur with this point enough. The more I read and engage with innovation and companies who are serious about it I see innovation as a company-wide enterprise and collaboration. The benefits through all and between business units should be sort and can be found. You just have to know where to look and how to ask the right questions etc.

As a final point to this article. Collecting ideas from employees is a good start, collecting them at a single event and giving away a single cash prize for the best one....I don't think is the best approach for so many reasons.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chemie.DE News-Center: Innovation and portfolio optimization strengthen BASF's Agricultural Products division

Here is a timely reminder about the results that innovation can bring. BASF have just announced their figures which are being driven by new and innovative products whilst highlighting their pipeline is also looking promising for years to come. This is an interesting point that we have observed at Imaginatik research. Innovation is a repeatable process that can deliver consistent value over many years. To achieve this you need to build a pipeline of good ideas, concepts etc. to continually achieve corporate goals.
MacDailyNews - Apple and Mac News - Welcome Home Apple Computer No. 1 on Fortune's 'Most Admired for Innovation 2006' list

What to see who's on the list (surveyed by the Hay Group from 8,645 executives and directors at those companies, as well as to analysts) for the most admired for innovation from the Global Fortune lists apart from Apple....Oh and you can also see who isn't or check to see where you came...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Xinhua - English China seeks growth impetus from technological innovation

We have all pretty much heard that innovation in China is coming. In the last few months, "the blueprint of national economic and social development for the 2006-2010 period has been submitted to the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC). This will see China speed up building an innovation-oriented country in the coming years. For example, The Chinese government will invest 71.6 billion yuan (8.95 billion U.S. dollars) to encourage innovation this year, 11.526 billion yuan (1.44 billion U.S. dollars) more than that in 2005, up 19.2 percent." However, where is all this spending being targeted? On a relentless pursuit of economic wealth?

Interestingly, "in terms of the cost efficiency of resources, China trails behind 53 others on a list of 59 countries, according to a research report on sustainable development released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the end of February". It would seem that the first clear innovation challenge for China is perhaps a more environmental sustainable one.
CRN IBM PartnerWorld: Change Is In The Air IBM's New Mantra: 'Innovation That Matters'

Here's an interesting one. IBM are moving from "On Demand" to "Innovation that Matters" as the company mantra. From the article "On Demand" was defined as the technology foundation. Innovation is more directed to focusing on solutions that drive the business. I agree that innovation is very much about delivering value (to the company, consumer and those all important share-holders). I hope this is taken forward properly and is not just a marketing ploy to use the innovation word to attract customers? I'm sure it's not especially as it came from IBM’s vice president of technical strategy and innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger.

It also appears that IBM are opening their research labs to help all of its business partners, and not just their top clients, to solve those tricky problems. This I hope is a good thing by extending the innovation pipeline along the partner route (one of many types of innovation) by giving them access to experts they may not have been able to collaborate with in the past. "On Demand" is dead long-live "Innovation that Matters"...
futurethink's Innovation Tracker Taps 2006'S Best Innovators; Survey Finds Corporate Climate is Key to Successful Innovation:

This is something you have probably read a lot in innovation books and hear at conferences but to have the message again reinforces one of the key ingredient that innovation leaders cite as key for firms wishing to take innovation seriously in that they need to approach innovation as an overall business strategy with direct impact on financial stability and growth. Consequently, they have created an environment (climate) that not only invites but stresses calculated risk taking as standard procedure.

The article goes onto highlight that just focusing on the breakthrough ideas do not make a company innovative. I would agree with this, it makes sense to have a balanced portfolio between the different types of innovation, whether they are breakthrough or incremental in nature, let alone which one or combination of the 20 or more types of innovation we have identified at Imaginatik research.

The most effective innovators were companies that engendered a risk-taking climate and continually worked at it. "Top innovative companies respect the demands of a constantly changing marketplace. What product is selling today can be easily eclipsed by technology and competition come tomorrow (remember the the Sony Walkman?). They understand that innovation is a long term business practice, only as effective as the environment that sustains it."

One respondent put it quite succinctly in reference to Apple "they are on an 'innovation bullet train'. Innovation is integrated into everything they do. Apple has created an environment that expects and rewards risk taking. They depend on sustainable and rapid innovation but to lead in the marketplace". My take-aways from this are sustainable, rapid, reward innovation that is integrated into everything they do. It may seem obvious to some but innovation is a repeatable and sustainable process across an entire organization. Drive it positively, rapidly enough, with reward and it can become exciting and self-fulfilling not only for the individual but the entire company.

The remainder of the article goes on to define what innovation is and that creativity alone doesn't mean you will be innovative. I can't grumble with that. Innovation needs to be focused on achieving value, not only for the company but the consumer. The definition we have at Imaginatik Research states that "innovation is a process of handling new things that deliver value". It is multidimensional and repeatable. This is critical. Whilst innovation produces things, people may think innovatively, it's actually much wider than that and it's about the process delivering time-and-time again across an entire organization innovating in all the many different dimensions and knowing how to manage each of them accordingly as they can require different approaches.
Components in Electronics - CIE -British Public expects UK innovation to benefit society.

This survey from QinetiQ, conducted by MORI, highlights that the types of technological innovation that the British public expect will have the most positive impact upon, including slow-releasing cancer drugs (47%), renewable energy sources (38%), and new drugs to treat AIDS (37%). It also points out those innovations can have had a negative effect, with mobile phones and text messaging combining to be 25%. It would be interesting to understand if these are social or health concerns? I would imagine it's both.

"Looking further ahead, the issues most people want addressed through innovation in the next 20 years include disease (54%), pollution (42%), famine (37%), terrorism (37%), climate change (28%), road congestion (22%), recycling and waste (22%)."

Sounds like innovation has some very rewarding and adventurous goals to achieve in the coming years. However, whilst technology will play a large part in bringing these to society, we mustn't forget the role that people (who have the imagination to take us there) and government (who can guide and co-ordinate effort) amongst others can bring in concert to these issues. Technology alone will not solve them. This is highlighted in the article by Stephen Lake, QinetiQ's Director of New Business, although with a slightly different intent and take to mine where he highlights that entrepreneurial and political will is present but focused government funding to take it forward is lacking. This is an interesting comment from the partly owned government defense organization (23.7%), who recently released more shares on the market thus reducing the central governments ownership of it.
Components in Electronics - CIE It's not often I come across a short but interesting article that highlights my own belief about innovation but today I read such an article.

In a recent study, conducted by the organizers of MDT 06, 46% of UK's leading medical device manufacturers report that they are using innovation rather than price to take on their competitors.

I recently has the pleasure of meeting one of these companies in the UK and got hear first-hand how they innovate their medical devices by spending time with the customer, and no not the people in procurement but the medical technicians, doctors and patients who use their devices. The point that really impressed me was that they took a representative from every aspect of their organization (many eyes see different things) to observe what was happening, along with a video camera. The insight that provided and the connection from the engineer to the patient became a personal experience that really drove them to be innovative. For example, I saw a heart resuscitator being used in an ambulance that had been originally designed for use in a hospital. As a consequence, a vital cable to charge the device was practically impossible to plug in when the ambulance was in motion, owing to its position in the ambulance. This could potentially lead to the device not being charged and ready for action. As soon as the engineer saw this device being used in a different environment the improvement to the device was made, amongst many others.

Surely, and particularly in the medical device industry, this behavior towards the consumer should be encouraged. It can't be all about cost? Well not in the UK medical device industry anyway I'm please to highlight...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

CEOs find innovation hard to achieve: survey?? IBM have just published an interesting survey that states

"nearly two-thirds of the world's top chief executives said that due to pressures from market and competitive forces, they plan to radically alter their companies over the next two years, and corporate leaders are increasingly looking to innovation in their business models to drive growth".

What interested me further about this article was not the proportion of CEOs that are turning to innovation but the follow-up statement from Ginni Rometty from IBM Enterprise Business Services "that it's no longer about product's about understanding how to innovate a business model, or an operational process..." This reminds me of an earlier post where I mentioned the how Imaginatik Research has identified over 20 types of innovation (this paper is being prepared a I write). There are so many different areas you can focus on. Ignore them at your peril, one of your competitors wont.

In addition, these findings from IBM identified that only 14% of CEOs thought internal R&D were good sources of new ideas. I'm not surprised by this. Companies we work with at Imaginatik utilize idea management across their entire organizations, to great effect and of course across the many different types of innovation.

And the biggest obstacle these CEO's identified in taking innovation forward? Internal problems in their own organization rather than external ones. And the top one they polled? An unsupportive culture and climate. The main reason they infer is that they are poor at managing change, some 80% of CEOs said they had been very unsuccessful in doing this in the past. I would question what are the common themes here? Was change used to reduce head-count? Were employees engaged properly or at all in any of these change programmes? So change may now be viewed as a bad thing for employees instead of an energizing thing? Innovation is about adding value, CEOs are waking-up to this but their are tough challenges ahead but the good news is there are people who can help.
How Whirlpool Defines Innovation - I have just finished reading this facinating and insightful view on how Whirlpool do Innovation. This article highlights so many of the important things a company should do to innovate:

Soliciting ideas from everywhere and everyone (some 61,000-employees in total).
Estabishing a seed fund for innovation
Having a team of seasoned and trained innovators.
Setting an innovation goal and acheiving it!
Building an innovation pipeline and knowing how big it is/needs to be/what's in it etc...
Defining innovation metrics/innovation criteria for projects
Keeping senior management and employees engaged and rewarded

Still the process is always being improved, as they highlighted , the issue of killing ideas that aren't going to work early enough is something they struggle with..

And the rewards? They have netted $422 m on sales of $14.3 billion, share prices at an all time high. Excited and engaged employees. This is a must read.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday, February 10, 2006

Don't Follow the Leader - I have just read a short and sweet example of how Enterprise Rental Cars rocketed there revenues to nearly $7 billion vs. the former market leader Hertz, $5 billion, by pursuing different types of innovation, not just those like service. This has been highlighted before, like all good ideas, but to see the revenues attributed in such a way by a company thinking about the different types of innovation highlights the potential rewards it can bring. Imaginatik Research has identified more than 20 different innovation types for example - if you're interested in a presentation containing those - just send a request to

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