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.