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.