Thursday, November 29, 2007

Corporate Innovation - On a Break

When we started the Corporate Innovation Blog a some years back, there were relatively few places to go to get information and insight on innovation. This has now changed, with regular sections in BusinessWeek, a plethora of conferences around the world, and several blogs on innovation, idea management and related topics.

Rather than be just another voice, we are going into hibernation mode with this blog, and working on one specifically for Imaginatik, our company. We'll post a link to the new blog as soon as it is ready for prime-time.

In the mean-time [sic], have a read through the past content - there are some great insights and links to fab resources in here.

All the best,

The Imaginatik Research Team
(Mark, Boris, Matt & Dave)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How Fast Are You Failing?

Tucked at the end of a Business Week profile of the challenges facing Merck (full disclosure: client) are details of a "kill fee" incentive for scientists to declare certain initiatives as failed. Reaching critical "no-go" decisions sooner means those lessons can be shared with others -- potentially heading off other unproductive efforts -- with resources shifted to more promising projects.

This shows why unit sales, income or new product introductions are flawed metrics in determining innovation success. Mean-time-to-failure or mean-time-to-action can be just as valuable in identifying whether process and projects are effective. Imaginatik Research has seen incentives for participation prove as motivating as recognition for leading an ideation event.

Management consultants say rewarding misses as well as hits is the right idea, and one that the entire industry will need to adopt. "The earlier you determine when something should be killed, the better," says Charlie Beaver, vice-president at consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. Still, he warns, changing a corporate culture from one that thrives on success to one that also accepts failure "is a very large hurdle to overcome."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mobilizing Minds

The latest in innovating management from McKinsey & Co. is the book Mobilizing Minds, which tries to prepare people and companies for a 21st century model of success.

Forget 'work smarter, not harder' -- this book suggests that profit-per-employee yardsticks to measure effective use of knowledge is a far better barometer than ROI or capital spending.

In his book review that explains the book's thesis, FT columnist Stefan Stern appears to sing a chorus from the Imaginatik songbook: "the great majority of businesses are underperforming precisely because their most important intangible assets -- the ideas and creativity of their knowledge workers -- are unwittingly suppressed by the way in which these businesses are set up to operate."

At issue is a complexity that mirrors the traffic and congestion on overfilled highways. You can do business using a 20th century model (just as you CAN travel from LA to Long Beach on a roadway at rush hour) but never before has it taken more time, wasted more resources and involved more people in the futile attempt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From Business to Baseball -- With Apologies to Cubs Fans

Xerox offers a keen example of how corporate innovation and problem-solving can run in cycles, counter to the business cycles that usually define success. When creative thinking is needed most, many companies move toward safe, less-challenging strategies. This story from the July 9 Fortune referenced in a blog across town recaps how Sophie Vanderbroek has revived a culture of innovation, at the place that brought us the computer mouse, Ethernet and countless other technologies. Those inventions became crucial to every business. Now, Xerox is on to "reusable paper" that goes blank at a particular time for another document -- after noticing that 40 percent of paper used in offices ends up in the trash

The quest for uniformity (whether it's predictable earnings, people who think similarly, herd mentality in the industry) is a clear sign it's time to change the status quo. One reason companies don't shake things up is they may be succeeding financially but on the 'slippery slope' to a shortfall of new products/services. Think of pro baseball -- it's July and the All-Star Break -- that too much spent on star players can starve budgets for farm teams and developing internal talent for much less money.

Look to Imaginatik for collaborative solutions, and other ways to tap the collective genius in your organization -- before it becomes a crisis (or your team fails to make the playoffs). For those readers overseas, please substitute "football" for "baseball" and the name of your worst local club for "Cubs."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Pioneering, Breakthrough, Innovation Blog Item ( no really)

Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (Microsoft’s PR firm) has studied what it takes to be perceived as an innovator. Not surprisingly, it requires telling people you’re innovative – using keywords such as “creative” or “pioneering.” This emotional appeal can communicate and convince people of your image more powerfully than mere facts, figures or details.

What? You wanted wisdom from a PR firm?

The agency tracked two sets of innovation keywords that were topical (patents, design, labs, innovation etc ) and sentimental ( revolutionary, cutting-edge, genius etc.) against media coverage of 20 IT companies in the top 15 business publications over the period Jan 2005-June 2006.

Coincidentally . . . the time period leading up to Microsoft’s introduction of the Vista operating system. You can read more, it’s only four pages long and not very breakthrough in its details or presentation, which is surprising since the company claims to have invented Innovation Communications(SM).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Imaginatik/Pfizer innovation webinar

You're invited to a webinar spotlighting idea management innovation solutions from Imaginatik and the world's most advanced companies.

Tuesday - June 26 - 10am EDT "Near Shore Innovation" will be presented by Dr. Rob Spencer of Pfizer, recently profiled in BioIT World magazine (and the BBGM blog)

Please for registration. And, yes, spaces are limited so we need an RSVP.

Spencer explains how 'open innovation' provides an advance view of where your market or industry is heading, while minimizing security concerns and creating new partnerships for growth. Pfizer has done all three and expanded idea management to a widely used tool serving thousands of people around the world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Happy Just To Be Nominated

Thanks to Rafael Navarro of Cranfield University in UK and his Best of Enterprise 2.0 blog for a list of Top 10 companies best positioned for 21st century consulting and business. Imaginatik is one of only two 1990s vintage companies recognized and we're glad to be included.

You'll find a YouTube video for new IBM business simulation Innov8 that illustrates the impact of new processes and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) . The simulator pulls back the curtain on how computing power has moved away onto the network. Contact us for more information --

Navigating successfully from Knowledge Management to Idea Management and Innovation is a unique position that means we've seen what hasn't worked but more importantly, what DOES work and continues to deliver results. That experience helps us harness the power of innovation programs and technologies that are now mature enough to deliver on Web 1.0 promises.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Excessive Innovation?

This WSJ story outlines the difficulties of being Avery Dennison, which had an over-abundance of "good ideas" that overloaded its innovation program. Sounds like time for an 'idea management' solution. . . . And thanks to the George Group for suggestions on creating a more efficient new product pipeline. These include radical concepts such as building in slack time to help manage for delays or cross-training workers among different functions to solve staff shortages.

Seems Avery Dennison couldn't cope having too many good ideas. With too many activities at the end of the pipeline, it's easy to chase diverse projects that may all seem worthwhile. Each company needs methods for evaluating, reviewing and queueing up ideas for action and implementation -- much like an air traffic control operator -- to ensure smooth flow, appropriate resources and ongoing "management" of the innovation process.

This story echoes a blog/item in CIO magazine about comments from Disney CIO Tony Scott who said "In some respects there's too much innovation, or not enough scale out of the innovation we have."

A mind is a terrible thing to waste . . .

Monday, June 11, 2007

Job Security for Innovators

This brief, bloggy history lesson by Don Dodge of Microsoft provides details on how first movers DON'T always capture the castle by innovating. His advice is that companies need to look farther ahead -- though his ever-accelerating version of "Innovator's Dilemma" means that instead of 10-to-20 years for a challenger to overtake established players, it can be done in only a few years. Even new stars can burn out quickly.

His advice: Keep running hard because you never know who's gaining on you or how the market will change. Maybe he's a student of Satchel Paige. . .

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Innovation Is The Rule, Not The Exception

Thanks to the Connected Collective Innovation blog for this article on how "innovation is the new normal" in the news media.

More than a decade or more into the Internet Revolution, some fans of online news, e-mailed headlines and hyperlinked social media are saying its time to retire the moniker "new media" and just call it "media." This may be a shameless ploy by carbon-based news organizations to claim they 'get it' and have joined the 21st century. Media companies took longer than most to learn about transparency, audience participation and other 'interactive approaches' but the article also shows that any one-way-only business model can't last.

How long before the TV network news or the NY Times credits a story to an independent blogger?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Come here, Innovation, I want you

This past weekend's Financial Times offers a 13-step process on How to Innovate. David Bodanis provides a few interesting suggestions, viewed through the career of Alexander Graham Bell, less well-known as a tutor to deaf youth in Boston. His motivation as an inventor could also have been his pursuit of one of his students Mabel Hubbard, and the connections or wealth the Hubbard family offered.

Spoiler alert: Bell may, or may not have invented the telephone. German inventor Philipp Reis claims to have a similar device built as early as 1863. But Bell got the girl and married Mabel in 1877 -- a year after patenting the telephone in the U.S.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Moving Ideas To Action

Thanks to the nice folks at the BBGM blog for recapping a BioIT World presentation where Pfizer (an Imaginatik client) gave 'idea management' another nudge into the common vernacular. They get it. Just having an idea isn't enough -- ideas have to be merged with existing knowledge and then move to action to test or implement to see how the audience responds.

Having a shared language is key to bringing new concepts alive -- defining concepts and goals, removing uncertainties and setting out clear expectations (even if that means keeping an open mind for the unexpected -- remember, Viagra research began as a heart disease remedy). At Imaginatik Research, we're reminded of this daily.

We tackle the challenge daily of joining clients, co-workers and partners around the world and asking them to share technical jargon about rapidly changing corporate concepts. And without the entertaining, IT double-speak of "mission-critical innovation" or "Web 2.0 solution provider."

Send two boxtops and an e-mail if you need a decoder ring. . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yesterday's Failure = Tomorrow's Breakthrough

A recent PBS show on the challenges of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable contained a historical factoid that shows how long it can take good ideas to germinate.

One challenge was having a boat large enough to carry such a huge coil of cable that would span the thousands of miles from the Irish coast to Newfoundland in Canada. After a massive ship, the Great Eastern, failed as a British tourist vessel designed for luxury travel to Australia, it was chartered 'for 2 percent of its construction cost' to unspool the trans-Atlantic cable in 1865.

Now for the payoff: The ship was the largest in the world -- six times larger than any rival -- when initially built and had a double-hull construction that would be "rediscovered" a century later as a way to make ships safer against hull damage (from, say, icebergs. . . .) and to make oil tankers more secure against leaks.

Talk about your lemons into lemonades.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pimp my Ride? Nope, Smell my Phone . . .

One really interesting session from the Front End of Innovation included a scented all-natural plastic from the Innovation Lab at Eastman Chemical Co. Gaylon White, director of Design Industry Programs at Eastman, demonstrated a plastic made from wood pulp that has the feel, sound and quality of wood – yet is bio-degradable as a plastic so it wins points from environmentalists.
Auracell – this is where the smell comes in – resulted from efforts with two other companies to add scent or deliver anti-microbials to avoid infectious disease. White has a Razr phone cover that smells like pina colada from Fone Gear – one of five available flavors.

In 2005, the innovation lab itself ran into a wall when several of its champions left the company. Some executives wanted to return to less innovative approaches, including supporting the sales process through trade shows and handshaking instead of more visionary or disruptive methods.

Creativity always meets resistance and we’re no different than anybody else in that sense,” White says. “Externally, innovation lab was a hit but even our employees didn’t know what we were doing with our materials. The biggest mistake we made was that there wasn’t sufficient internal communications, a bigger splash, more frequent and closer communication,” he said. “The resistance was the mar/com group which had traditionally been reliant on trade shows -- they saw us as taking away money from things they could be doing.”

His message: “We’re transmitting, you’re not receiving” was aimed at both executives and sales people who weren’t open to changes that support and sustain innovation. White suggests taking extra care to ensure your mission and message can be clearly understood within the company, among consumers and stakeholders. Any confusion can lead to reluctance or, worse, efforts at undermining change – especially if it means a loss of prestige or resources.

One solution included reorganizing the innovation lab’s website to serve audiences inside Eastman and to engage customers outside. The plastic samples White once gave out as small chips have been reborn as yin-yang shaped ‘pebbles’ that have become collector items -- all 22 different scents, colors, finishes are eagerly saved among designers or packaging executives.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Get to Know CECOR

General Electric could do for innovation what Ford did for factory production or Motorola did for process in developing Six Sigma.

Patia McGrath, marketing director at GE detailed specific tools, techniques and approaches to continuous corporate-level innovation. When CEO Jeffrey Immelt challenged GE to deliver 8 percent annual growth, it meant producing a $10-12 billion in value – roughly the size of Nike or British Airways. That doesn’t happen with a single Eureka!

You’ll be hearing more about CECOR, acronym for the process Calibrate, Explore, Create, Organize, Realize. CEC is strategy and OR is commercialization. Not an easy match when creativity has to play nicely with strategy and commercial development.

CEC can be repeated to refine learning and approaches. The entire spectrum is question-based: asking for information instead of listing assumptions and to-do lists. It’s important to recognize how much you don’t know and can’t predict.

“We take the opposite view when people say a giant company can’t be nimble,” McGrath told the Front End conference. GE uses a toolkit – including Idea Central – that combines idea markets, processes and events to support “Imagination Breakthroughs” or IBs.

With more than 100 IBs in the works, GE has also gotten comfortable with the idea that some initiatives fail – a very different approach than during the Jack Welch era.

TRIVIA ALERT – GE is the only company continuously listed in the Dow Jones Index since the index began in 1896.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Talking to a Blog -- with unexpected results

Jott From Boris Pluskowski (Involved the new service You call and speak a message that is recorded and can be sent via e-mail, convertedfrom speech to text. This post required a fair amount of editing -- even these few sentences didn't make it clearly into the blog's HTML.

Instead of listening to customer problems and having them send solutions -- a favorite example of Open Innovation -- you might focus instead on the customer experience since THEY are the ones who have a problem YOU can solve. Following the 'voice of the customer' sounds like you're getting close to your consumers but often leads to the wrong issue and, thus, the wrong solution.

After all, the customer can't really innovate or solve issues in YOUR company without knowing more about the reasons why things happened the way they did. They see the events and perceive causes and effects very differently than employees or executives

Hope you'll check back for postings and updates from the Front End of Innovation conference in Boston, today and tomorrow. Instead of 'track back' perhaps you'd like to 'talk back' . . . .

Listen to audio
Set reminders, assign, and manage this jott on

Brought to you by Jott Networks, Inc.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Is 'Attention' Innovation?

A "Fashion Journal' column in the WSJ makes extensive use of the I word (innovation) in lamenting that upscale, luxury retailers are neglecting clients and less prestigious, but more service-focused, offerings are taking the place of traditional luxury.

The idea is that once luxury sellers (Tiffany, Starbucks, American Airlines and other carriers that began in the golden age of aviation) go mainstream they lose their cache and risk being viewed as no longer innovative. Yet companies that offer creative and targeted services can SEEM customer-focused (Virgin Airlines, Target, Apple) even if they are not luxury brands. A company that interacts with its customer and, even better, identifies them as special through events, groups, services can break out in a big way.

Being seen as cool (W Hotels, Apple, Mini) may be more valuable than the perception of a luxury brand (Ritz-Carlton, Cadillac) if those brands get associated with older, mainline rivals. At the Imaginatik User Group Conference coming up next week, we'll ask about the role innovation plays in creating the 'cool factor' (see also: "Boss" "Hip" "Phat" "Stylin" and "Neat-o").

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Big I and Little i Innovation

Wharton Prof. George Day advises that big and little innovations are critical to sustaining corporate growth. His thoughts on how to close the 'growth gap' appear in a Knowledge@Wharton article (free registration required) describing how a portfolio of long-term and short-term objectives need to be identified, along with the change management route for incorporating ALL these factors when planning ahead.

Successful companies look to repeat the very thing that delivered results, one example of how even risks that pay off can turn an organization cautious and incremental. Conversely, a company in decline - seeing a widening gap -- may take an excessive risk, hoping for one 'massive I' that saves the day. Somewhere in-between the two is a prudent set of large and small bets -- a good strategy for this weekend's Kentucky Derby wagering as well.

Day points to GE and McDonald's (both Imaginatik clients by the way) as prime examples of robust corporate innovation management portfolios. Both companies have learned from big initiatives, some occasional duds but a persistent innovation strategy which has led to market leadership positions.

One could (and should) also argue that corporate innovations extend beyond the concept of little and large. Both big and small I should be spread out across all the innovation dimensions - to ensure that not only variable sizes of innovation, but to spur innovations in all aspects of your organisation. The more dimensions employed in innovation, the more competitive your edge can be in the long run (or the home stretch).

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Rigor" can mean stiffness or intensity

We prefer the intensity definition. Intuit CEO Steve Bennett added nicely to our Six Sigma thread (without knowing it) when he used the word "rigor" to describe how his management skills - honed at GE - were applied at the Silicon Valley software maker. These comments come from the 4/16 WSJ.

In a Q&A, Bennett contends:
1. Customer-driven innovation wins consistently against technology-driven innovation.
2. Great companies have innovation and rigor; they are complementary, not in conflict.
3. Process is an enabler to achieve an outcome; it is not the desired outcome.

His point? A clear and process-driven approach to innovation makes it even more successful -- in the past few years Intuit has introduced more new products than ever in company history. What Bennett calls "strategic and operational rigor" makes it more feasible to execute on ideas that emerge.

After all, ideas without action are dreams . . . . What's on your to-do list for today?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rembrandts In YOUR Attic?

Chris Zook of Bain & Co. wrote the book "Unstoppable" and an op-ed in the WSJ on "hidden assets" that turned around Apple, GE, Nestle and others. These companies "discovered" existing products, markets or innovations but only when key players chose to pursue them. Apple built its platform on the iPod, GE tapped the strength of GE Capital and other survivors found their solutions in-house.

Nine of 10 companies that renewed themselves in the past decade used assets that had not been maximized. Zook's research found that half of the Global 500 companies since 1994 have seen their world changed by core business threats. Sounds like the situation Bristol Myers-Squibb faced when the company turned to idea management tools - details at

About half of those challenged companies used merger/bankruptcy to lose their positions. The other half made risky fundamental strategy changes to grow and survive. Stories like these are reminders that species have to adapt to survive. After all, Nokia began as a wood/paper company. . . so cell phones and snow tires took it a long way from its roots (insert groan here).

Monday, April 09, 2007

Six Sigma Improves Innovation

Those of you puzzling over how to combine Six Sigma quality initiatives with the creativity of innovation might consider a May 10 webinar by Bob Carter, a senior consultant at Raytheon USA. (Shameless plug) His success at building teams of diverse thinkers by merging the science of engineering with the free-thinking creativity of problem-solving is worth every penny (or Euros or quid).

“Process and methodology is more important than results to many Six Sigma people. But innovation relies on variation – precisely what Six Sigma is supposed to remove,” he says. “One key is to adapt the tools to the problems and not vice versa.” After all, he warns, focusing too closely on sales or other metrics can drive your company to copy others and, potentially, move you farther away from goals or customers.

Bob was a featured speaker at recent Imaginatik Research master session that explored how Six Sigma can strengthen idea management to build a stronger innovation platform. Taking DMAIC process steps and applying them to production, improvement and deployment of ideas can make any organization a hothouse for innovation. Stay tuned for more in the next Imaginatik Research newsletter.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Customers Determine Innovation

A tiny item in the April 3 WSJ on Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn offers a big insight on the future of vehicles and the current 'green energy' movement. Asked about how Nissan plans to compete with the diesel, gas/electric hybrid or or hydrogen-powered engines -- especially given Toyota and Honda's leadership -- Ghosn replied "At the end, we don't decide, the customers decide."

Despite all the technology promise, if the buyer doesn't buy it, there's a fundamental problem. The lesson is that consumer education (marketing) and plenty of other 'things' have to change for innovation to succeed over the status quo. Some are external and beyond your control (in this case gasoline prices, ecological concerns) but the window of opportunity has to be open. Then you can create the right circumstances and be ready to capitalize.

What are you driving at? And what sort of engine does it have?

A Conversation Starter?

As if you don't have enough reading with blogs, Wikis, newsletters, books and magazines, here's another competitor for your limited time and attention: Harvard Business School Publishing hopes to capture eyeballs and minds by sparking online exchanges with influential business thinkers. Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak are among the first and a "conversation starter" is designed to spark a response.

Just remember where you heard of it and c'mon back here for deep thoughts. For many of us, it's as close to the hallowed halls of Harvard as we'll get.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pharma Innovation Comes from Ideas

If you've ever wondered how a global pharmaceutical company manages ideas, check out a new report from Gartner that explains how software, events and deep expertise all combine to power a world-class innovation program. This profile of Pfizer – an Idea Central client -- includes several operations that have longstanding experience with Imaginatik tools.

Sorry to say, the report isn't available for public purchase. But Gartner clients can access it by using the code G00146286.

Carol Rozwell wrote the report, which was released in late February. She’s a vice president at Gartner and leader of its Research Community on Innovation. She focuses on the Life Sciences sector (pharmaceutical, biotech and medical products companies) and examining the impact of technology and standards on business models, processes and channel relationships.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time is on my side. Or is it?

A virtual 'thank you' to Intranet Benchmarking Forum blog for an electro-shout out on the reasons for idea events with time limits. The power of closing time is a motivator -- in bars, schools, offices . . . . Think of how the upcoming vacation creates a frenzy. When people see time slipping by, they react. Some panic, others sharpen their focus and perform at peak efficiency. There's nothing quite like a deadline to spur action.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Can management handle innovation?

In the Financial Times, Richard Straub asks reasonable questions about how executives learn to manage the new realities of innovation and collaboration -- unruly processes that often involve people outside your organization. Is management ready to change itself and try a new approach? We've heard about the end of military-style "Command and Control" management in favor of more nimble and decentralized methods. What makes your top executives outperform the competition? Do they "get it" about new tech and new approaches?

Are you learning from the Web? Or is it learning from you? Mike Wesch, an anthropology professor at Kansas State University, tackles the intriguing issues of Web 2.0 using a great 'music video'. Check theYouTube video and call it distance learning. It is must-see education for top executives. So, put down the Blackberry for five minutes and let us know what you think. Then share this with your manager and explain what it means.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Here's a good idea: Be persistent

Installment 2 of the CNBC series "The Business of Innovation" aired on Sunday with a few suggestions that approach daily usefulness -- be creative, be patient, and find where service/product gaps are.

Because this is American TV, the focus is on personalities and superstar CEOs who champion innovation. So it may leave the impression that the CEO or innovation leader is behind the success. There have been mentions of client-centric or open innovation programs but some of the IBM commercials are more compelling than the program itself -- especially one spot detailing Project Checkmate, a response to possible bird flu outbreaks by national governments, emergency responders and other agencies worldwide. That message is clear -- you need knowledge and preparation to be ready for opportunities/crises. And you need a group of people with complementary skills who can bring deliver in a combined effort.

I hope you'll tune in to the Imaginatik Research newsletter, where this month we'll look at the shelf-life of ideas and the need to build on them over time. Very few breakthroughs happen on the first attempt, and the greatest impact often comes from incorporating different inputs (financial, marketing, business model) that are reinforcing. Even Frankenstein had to go through some ugly beta versions before he hit the big-time in Hollywood. . . .

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

When will they learn?
Innovation without value creation is just wheel-spinning...

Forrester Research recently announced a new survey that looked at innovation from a macro level - this is an excerpt from InformationWeek :

"Investing in knowledge -- a term that in this context encompasses funding for research and development, higher education, and software -- is seen as a way to create national wealth, enhance geopolitical power, solve social problems, and bolster national pride.

Developed nations spend an average of $1,270 per capita yearly to improve knowledge yet fail to achieve the desired benefits, according to Forrester's study.

The U.S. spent almost $300 billion in public and private money on R&D in 2003, about half of all R&D spending by the 30 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). America can claim 35% of all patents filed in Europe, Japan, and at home. But such spending doesn't create jobs or boost the number of goods and services produced by a country -- also known as the gross domestic product (GDP)"

Why is it taking countries so long to realize the best practices of innovation learned long ago -- often through hard failures -- at top companies worldwide? Unless there are goals or a clear focus on creating value, there's no reason to start innovating. Have we learned nothing from the failures of the Knowledge Management era?

Knowledge intensive initiatives that don't focus on targeted and directed creation of actual benefits and value will waste the time, money and goodwill of workers, partners, customers or taxpayers. This applies equally for companies seeking bottom line dollar value or governments seeking socio-economic benefits.

From a corporate standpoint, companies too often set out fluffy so-called "innovation" projects purely to check a box on the next annual report. These 'keep up with the Joneses' attempts have no aims, no metrics, no focus on solving a particular issue, and worst of all, no plan to impact the bottom line.

These "lazy innovators" are shocking only in that the executives leading the charge must have (again) fallen victim to unscrupulous consultants, vendors, and yes-men who are too scared or inexperienced to point out obvious flaws. Too often, the only objective is increasing employee participation, or hunt through a tub of random ideas that might contain one tiny golden nugget.

"Innovation" has tons of definitions but I have yet to see one from any credible source that doesn't involve "creating value" as a key factor. Leading innovators -- Whirlpool, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, and Google -- recognize this vital point. Without a clear value objective, what follows is failure, finger-pointing and a laundry list of other problems including:

-Loss of respect from senior staff who only see a frivolous cost center to be cut at the next downturn.
-Indifference and scorn from employees, suppliers, customers, and participants whose time and good intentions got wasted. Plus the frustration and disappointment when no action results from their intellectual input.
-Anger from shareholders who see money wasted on initiatives that could deliver great value -- and often do create benefits at other organizations -- but are child's play for a team that knows how the game is played.

For governments, the message is the same - just replace the word "taxpayer" for various stakeholders. The wrong-headed belief that more money will solve the woes at universities and other research facilities has meant years of throwing money at problems that don't respond. Maybe there's a golden nugget there in an overlooked patent application . . . .More likely, it's another expensive misadventure from people who haven't learned their lessons.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A TV Series on Innovation?

One sign that the innovation buzz may have reached its apex is the number of companies declaring themselves "innovative." Another is the five-part weekly TV series "The Business of Innovation" that premiered Sunday in the U.S. on the cable network, CNBC.

The first installment was largely a discussion scrum with experts debating various definitions of innovation and then differing on methods for achieving success. Profiles of companies and CEOs ranged from the expected 'let's be like Google' to a warmed-over recap of why influential top executives may turn out to be evil (Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Kozlowski) even when they're transforming a company. Anyone find the show useful?

Monday, March 05, 2007

We're Back!

Firstly - apologies for the long silence on the blogsphere - with Imaginatik finally hitting the big time and going public on December 15 2006 (LSE:IMTK.L) I'm afraid the workload and excitement got to us all! However- all things are now back on track - and we welcome a ton of new changes for Imaginatik Research and the Corporate Innovation Blog. Most changes will become apparent to you in the coming months (a new dedicated website, new look and feel, new content, new tools at your disposal, etc) - but first and foremost of these is the brand new "tsar" for Imaginatik Research, Editor David Wallace - who will be a great addition to the regular editorial staff of myself, Matt Chapman, and Mark Turrell. David comes from a rich background in journalism (including NY Times and Wired magazine) and was one of the first journalists to consider and write on the impact of innovation on the corporate environment. Needless to say, we're all very excited to have his contributions going forward! We hope that you are too and I look forward to continuing our mutual goals of advancing the boundaries of corporate innovation through 2007 and beyond!