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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

7 Keys to Innovation - European Style

7 Keys to Innovation - European Style
by Kathy Robison

Two weeks ago, I attended the Front End Innovation Europe Conference (FEI Europe) held in Amsterdam. One of the highlights was seeing the car in the picture above in person. Yes, they drove it into a large conference room inside the Hilton Hotel. It is the 2010 BMW Vision EfficientDynamics Concept car, and it is even more cool in person than in the photo. It's BMW's answer to the green car revolution. Though perhaps a little late to the game, I suspect it will eventually prove to be a huge success as they continue to do engineering with more style than most other car makers. In addition to seeing the car, we got to hear directly from Adrian van Hooydonk, the Director of Design of BMW Group and mastermind behind the group that developed the car. They clearly rose to the challenge of eloquently working Future Sustainability into their brand of the Joy of Mobility in a record amount of time.

We also received a lesson from Josephine Green, a well-known leader in trends and strategy from Philips Design, on Engaging with the Future Differently. It was a real eye opener for many. We also heard fantastic examples of innovation in conjunction with universities from Sigvald Harryson with Copenhagen Business School that left us all realizing the vastness of the untapped resources lurking around our universities. The event concluded with a superb presentation from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and an interactive session that literally no one wanted to leave. All in all... a huge success! If you missed FEI Europe, don't miss FEI USA 2010 in Boston this coming May (see editor's note for 20% off). I suspect it to be equally as tantalizing.

I've written previously about the Pitfalls of Innovation, and I still believe that far more talk about innovation occurs than actual innovation because true innovation comes from doing not talking. Just go to any third world country where people are forced to live with minimal resources and you will see what true innovation is all about. It comes more from unmet needs and a gap in resources than heavily padded budgets purposed toward the never-ending replacement of old gadgets with new gadgets. None-the-less, well done conferences such as FEI, are well worth it.

Below are the 7 Keys to an Innovative Business. Some are my standard favorites, and others I picked up at the FEI Europe Conference.

7 Keys to an Innovative Business

  1. Multiple Approaches to Innovation Provide the Best Results

    • Hire people with innovative characteristics
    • Seek partnerships - the more unlikely, the better
    • Lead users and co-invention can be extremely useful in some sectors
    • Complex Coalitions (public/private/univ/venture/research) are coming

  2. Don't Overlook the Importance of an Innovative Business Model

    • Ensure culture and vision include a commitment to innovation
    • Business as usual is no longer an option for 21st century success
    • Traditional hierarchical and rigid organizations don't foster creativity
    • Change should be the fuel of your business model not what creates a crisis

  3. Find the Right Balance Between Old, Adjacent, and New Business/Products/Services

    • Varies between industries, companies, and brands
    • Don't chuck out the old, just for the sake of it
    • How much of the value of your firm is based on its future potential?

  4. Innovation Requires Optimism, Curiosity, and a Splash of the Future

    • Spend more time studying the fringe - the middle is already known
    • Analyze what isn't and not what is - finding the gaps
    • Understand the "big think" trends
    • Get to know younger generations, they will be running things soon

  5. From Linear, to Exponential, to Circular

    • From "out of the box thinking" to "thinking without boxes"
    • Renewable and sustainable are circular concepts and here to stay
    • Constant feedback loops are critical to staying ahead of the curve

  6. Cultivating the Right Mindset is 90% of the Battle

    • Learning from failure is a key to success
    • Blur the lines and anxiety around internal vs external
    • Collaboration with competitors can be the best option in some situations

  7. Leadership Sans Egos

    • Cultivating trust requires the courage to be vulnerable
    • Constructive conflict produces the best answers
    • Business model intimacy - creating solutions with customers
    • Money is a low-level motivator... find out what really motivates your employees

Editor's Note: As an added value to our Blogging Innovation subscribers, we have negotiated a 20% discount for you. Just register using the discount code - FEI2010BRADEN.

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Kathy RobisonKathy Robison is the CEO of YURU, (The Guru Is You), dedicated to assisting businesses to realize the full potential of their success through innovative business strategies, executive coaching and leadership development.

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Anonymous Delphine said...

4-7 keys are more about human beings, I feel.
Another great conference in Europe (and more than a conference an experience to live) is CREA conference. Reading keys 4-7, it was just as clear as that for me : CREA conference is about people's mindsets, about inspiring and new leadership, about living and experiencing during 4 days what it is to think to thinl without boxes...

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Mike Waddell said...

Its interesting, when Kouzes and Posner (The Leadership Challenge) researched companies in the 80’s to identify what made the best the best, they discovered challenging the organisation was one of the 5 key leadership behaviours.

Its about always looking to improve the business and encouraging others to do so too. But its not just “can we do process better?” style thinking. It’s about actively challenging the business to find those discontinuous changes that make a difference – innovation.

What’s great about that is that it means innovation is not just about big things, like new cars, but its also about the run-of-the-mill, mundane, daily stuff.
If you have succeeded in developing something that is truly an innovative culture then it must work at levels in the organisation; not just for the elite product developers and not just for the big ticket programmes. Then innovation has value throughout the company and can be embraced by everyone from the cleaner to the CEO. Now that would be an innovative culture.

1:27 AM  
Blogger b_matt said...

This is a great point of view. I agree that innovation is an overused and abused word, often leading to misinterpretation. The word design falls into the same category. It pains me to see "Hair by Design" for a cheesy salon or "Home Design" used for a guy that just bangs nails.

1:05 PM  

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