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Friday, April 30, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media and Global Innovation

This is the fifth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Steve Todd

One of the main innovation themes that I encounter as an intrapreneur in a global organization is innovation by adjacency. This theme is a key driver for introducing new products into the high-tech industry. The e-book "Innovate With Influence" provides several examples of new products that have resulted from the integration of adjacent technologies. The adjacency theory relies on collaboration with two separate yet equally important parties: customers and technologists.

I use the diagram below to highlight the main task of a corporate intrapreneur.


Innovation Perspectives - Social Media and Global Innovation
An intrapreneur starts with deep technical knowledge and goes in search of new problems to solve (customer needs and requirements) and new technologies to help solve them. The beauty of corporate innovation is that plentiful adjacent technologies are often at the fingertips of any inventor. For example, my corporation (EMC) has acquired forty different technologies in the last decade; each technology comes with relevant experts. These experts can work with intrapreneurs to combine intellectual property and form something new.

In the past few years this type of corporate innovation has undergone world-wide acceleration due to the adoption of internal and external social media. Social media creates a level playing field for the submission, documentation, discussion, and progression of ideas, no matter what part of the globe that they come from. The global scope of social media toolsets enables corporations to capitalize on the international trend of reverse innovation.

Reverse innovation, as defined by Vijay Govindarajan, relies heavily on innovation occurring outside of the United States. Corporations often struggle to implement this type of innovation as their traditional models rely on idea generation in the US and idea implementation overseas.

Internal social media allows for global intrapreneurs to surface within a corporation and announce their presence. They have direct access to local customers in developing countries. They can share and collaborate on customer needs that are unique to their region. They can collaborate with remote corporate intrapreneurs on technologies that may help them solve their problems.

External social media allows for global intrapreneurs to become a public focal point for customers in their geography. Inventors that indicate a willingness to engage in social conversations with customers are gathering what they need to jump-start innovative activities. Twitter is a great example of how brief conversations with customers about their business problems can lead to the union of different technologies that solve those problems.

This was not possible a few short years ago. Intrapreneurs in the United States were trying to solve the world's problems. Unfortunately they were cut off from the breadth and scope of technologies and customers available via social media. The global reach of these tools allows them to form peer relationships inside global corporations. Peer relationships facilitate the transfer of new products back into the United States, which is the central theme of reverse innovation.

April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Steve ToddSteve Todd is a high-tech inventor and author of the book "Innovate With Influence". An EMC Intrapreneur with over 150 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Collaborating with Stakeholders

Innovation in Social Networking


This is the fourth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Bob Preston

Innovation Perspectives - Collaborating with StakeholdersWhat comes to mind when I think of social networking is the typical idle gossip and tidbits of information from friends and family for personal updates on "what are you doing now?" Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube... We all know them for fun personal and individual social news which spreads faster than wildfire. Beyond the personal use of social networking, however, organizations in many industries are using social networking sites and tools for collaborating with stakeholders, ultimately driving business value and innovation.

The use of social networking allows organizations to reach mass markets quickly, creating web 2.0 communities of stakeholders for viral word of mouth and exchange of ideas. Microsoft, for example, has been promoting the importance of their social communities and stakeholder collaboration in their recent TV ads featuring individuals who make the claim "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea" (click link to view videos). As Microsoft puts it: nearly a billion people use Windows, and their ideas added up to Windows 7. The message is that Windows 7 was created out of user feedback and complaints. PC users wanted an operating system that was faster, less complicated, smaller, more secure. Microsoft Connect is a social networking community site with the purpose of engaging users to suggest features, report bugs, and enter into discussions with Microsoft product managers and developers.

Another example of an organization's social networking program is Dell's IdeaStorm, an online community to encourage innovation through idea exchange, feature suggestions, and market opportunities to beat the competition. Dell started this project with a basic blog in 2007 which was a one way push of content to stem the tide of user complaints. The blog then morphed into IdeaStorm in 2007, inviting participation for a collaborative environment. This is a great example of a company whose desire to engage stakeholders has matured from just spin doctoring into true collaboration and idea exchange.

My Starbucks Idea, launched in 2008 by Starbucks Coffee, utilizes the tag-line "Share.Vote.Discuss.See." Social networking features have been added to the site in order to allow for collaboration around consumer suggestions. Members can vote on items, discuss them, and really show Starbucks how serious they are about a particular idea. Collaboration to the fullest! Of course, I offer my opinions to Starbucks directly, in fact every morning when I get my Grande Soy Latte at the local stop on my way to work. I wonder if those comments are captured?

Organizational social networking is not just limited to Web 2.0 blogs, communities and online forums. Xerox, for example, a company striving to reinvent itself in a paperless world, has fourteen blogs, a Twitter account @XeroxCorp with >1800 followers, a Facebook page titled "So, what DOES Xerox do?", a LinkedIn profile page, and a YouTube XeroxCorp Channel with over 120 video uploads, >30,000 channel views, and >350,000 upload views. All of these pages and sites have areas where comments and discussions can be posted. Xerox is definitely collaborating and communicating with its constituency on all fronts!

These are just a few of my favorite examples of how social networking is shaping innovation and collaboration with its stakeholders for organizations of all types. A larger list of company social networking examples can be found on my blog. Provided that a company's social networking program is sincere (and not just a pushing information or handling damage control), social networking seems to be an acceptable practice and the new standard for engaging consumers. Who needs expensive focus groups when you can capture an ongoing dialogue in real time!


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Bob PrestonBob Preston is a blogger and frequent speaker on collaboration within the enterprise for increased productivity and innovation. He is Chief Collaboration Officer at Polycom, Inc., a leading supplier of voice, video, and telepresence collaboration solutions.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Harnessing Your "Social Teens"

This is the third of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Michael Soerensen

Innovation Perspectives - Harnessing Your 'Social Teens'Use the power of the Social Media "teens" in your organization!

Everybody is struggling with innovation collaboration - especially how to make employees, customers, etc. chip in... One way of bypassing this for good, is to identify the savvy social media experts within your company, and equip them with tools for innovation and ideation. And you don't need to search for long - just call your Human Resource (HR) department and get a list of employees under 30 years of age, and you will have instant access to specialists brought up on facebook, messenger, linkedin, myspace, etc.!

This group knows what works - and what doesn't - when it comes to sharing and communicating knowledge - which is the core element of innovation. Think about this - If just 10% of employees' traffic/time spent on social media within the company perimeter was spent on collaborating instead, you could increase your innovation effort drastically!

You need ideation, collaboration and innovation, so why not just "copy" methods and tools that work? ...and let the ambassadors be the young guns that use social media like never before. A quick self-assessment on this is to simply analyze your own 'consumption' of Linkedin, Facebook, myspace, etc. on a daily basis, and ask yourself "Why do I use these tools and what am I gaining from them?"

Innovation and ideation tools are out there using exactly the same techniques as the big social media networks - and here is my take on the key elements that you should look for:
  • simple web-based intuitive interface
  • accessible from 'anywhere'
  • simple input methods - don't get too advanced in asking for knowledge!
  • personalization opportunities

When you have found your tool, and recruited your ambassadors internally - copy this externally! Seek amongst your customers within the same group, and invite them to collaborate.

If I were responsible for innovation in a company, I wouldn't wait one second in starting this process, as the benefits are so obvious and so easily accessible! And the nice part is that you don't need to call for external social media expertise - you have experts sitting right next to you!

Stefan Lindegaard quoted me on this subject as well in this article, with some interesting perspectives - Can Social Media Tools Hinder Innovation?


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Michael SoerensenMichael Soerensen is CMO at Nosco.dk, a danish company, creators of the SaaS innovation platform; Idea Exchange. Michael is a serial entrepreneur, and after great successes and learnful failures he is now truly at home with his buddies at Nosco.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media is the Glue of Innovation

This is the second of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Braden Kelley

Innovation Perspectives - Social Media is the Glue of InnovationSocial media serves an incredibly important role in innovation. Social media functions as the glue to stick together incomplete knowledge, incomplete ideas, incomplete teams, and incomplete skillsets. Social media is not some mysterious magic box. Ultimately it is a tool that serves to connect people and information.

I'm reminded of a set of lyrics from U2's "The Fly":


"Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief"



Social media can help ideas grow and thrive that would otherwise wither and die under the boot of the perfectionist in all of us.

Do you remember the saying "it takes a village to raise a child"? Well, it takes a village to create an innovation from an idea as well, and social media helps to aggregate and mobilize the people and knowledge necessary to do just that.

But, that is social media working in the positive. We must remember that social media tools are just that - tools.

Just as easily as social media tools can be an accelerant for innovation, they can also be an inhibitor - if the participants or the presenters manage to make the less active majority feel that innovation is not something for them.

If you don't want to be a fool with a tool, then you must be careful to make sure that the social media tools in your organization are fulfilling their role in a positive way and leveraging existing knowledge management and collaboration toolsets:

  1. To make innovative ideas visible and accessible

  2. To allow people to have conversations

  3. To build community

  4. To facilitate information exchange

  5. To enable knowledge sharing

  6. To assist with expert location

  7. To power collaboration on idea evolution

  8. To help people educate themselves

  9. To connect people to others who share their passion

  10. To surface the insights and strategy that people should be building ideas from

The better you become at the above, the stronger your organization's innovation capability will become, the more engaged your employees will become, and the more ready you will become to engage successfully in open innovation.

For the most part, what I've been talking about is the role of social media in innovation inside the organization. When you leverage social media for innovation outside the organization, it gets a whole lot more complicated.

But, maybe that's a conversation for another day.

In the meantime, please consider the ways in which social media in your organization might be able to strengthen inter-disciplinary cooperation, make the organization itself more adaptable, and how it could help to create an organization with the power to transform more ideas into innovations.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Connecting Social Networks to Innovation

30 Ideas for Using Social Networks to Help You Be More Innovative


This is the first of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)'. Here is the initial perspective in the series:

by Mike Brown

Innovation Perspectives - Connecting Social Networks to InnovationWhat is the role of social media and networks in innovation?

Given the collaborative and interactive nature of social networks, they are a natural venue for enhancing innovation across many dimensions. Here are 30 possibilities you could pursue to make social networking a more overt part of your innovation efforts:


Identifying Unarticulated Needs
  • Set up a social media monitoring system to see where and how customers are talking about your brand and related issues.
  • Sponsor a contest to have customers identify challenges they're facing (that you might be able to solve).
  • Listen for social media participants expressing challenges you could help solve.
  • Sponsor your own Twitter-based chat for customers in your industry to talk about topics of interest.
  • Recruit customers to video ideas, issues, and problems they face and post them. Reward ideas that get used.

Tapping New Expertise
  • Identify outside experts / partners to potentially incorporate into your innovation efforts.
  • Spot young talent with new perspectives to bring into your organization through internships or permanent jobs.
  • Participate in #innochat on Twitter every Thursday at 12 noon ET (US).
  • Sponsor and promote an open competition to solve a challenge your business is facing related to innovation.
  • Suggest a monthly topic for Blogging Innovation related to an area where you're looking to be more innovative.
  • Develop a follower base focused on innovation areas for your business.
  • Follow the experts followed by the people you look to for innovative perspectives online.

Gathering Different Inputs and Information
  • Lurk in competitors' communities to see what new things they're talking about.
  • Use a blog to write about issues you're addressing and solicit readers to offer their perspectives.
  • Regularly feed front end innovation questions to your community for input.
  • Give Flip cameras to employees throughout your company. Have them post video ideas on your private social network.
  • Participate in social networks targeted at analogous businesses/industries to see how they think about similar issues to ones you face.

Enabling Innovative Collaboration
  • Invite your customers to a community to share ideas with one another.
  • Listen to social media conversations as a source of random inputs for ideation.
  • Use online chat environments to push and expand ideas you are pursuing.
  • Set up a private social network to provide a forum for more detailed innovation-based conversations.
  • Create more active connections and dialogue across boundaries in your own organization.
  • Summarize and post direct dialogues between innovators in your company to allow a broader group to comment, respond, and adapt an idea.
  • Share fragments of new ideas which colleagues (both near and far flung) can build on and transform through their input.
  • After innovative collaborative relationships are developed online, make a concerted effort to meet in real life to move the collaboration to new levels.

Solving Challenging Problems
  • Feature your internal experts more broadly toward making them available to help solve challenges in your industry.
  • Provide multiple social media channels for customers to complain directly to you with product issues.
  • Offer to help competitor's customers solve problems they're having with your competitors' products / services.
  • Connect your outside partners more effectively in a social community to allow them to better discuss ways your organization can be more innovative.
  • Use images from Flickr or videos on YouTube to help communicate early stage innovation concepts.

I'm not sure these 30 ideas have even lightly scratched the surface, so let's hear what you've done that you'd add to the list!


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company's chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook "Taking the NO Out of InNOvation" and is a frequent keynote presenter.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Reminder - Innovation Perspectives Due Midnight April 24

Innovation PerspectivesJust a reminder that you still have a chance to add your voice to April's Innovation Perspectives.

This monthly feature presents our loyal readers with different perspectives on a single topic all in one place - from several different authors. It gives our innovation community the opportunity to compare, contrast and discuss them in the comments here on Blogging Innovation and with the 2,750+ people in the Continuous Innovation group on LinkedIn.

Here is this month's topic for publishing the week of April 26-May 2, 2010:


What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)

Several contributing authors will be writing articles on this topic, but you are also welcome to submit an article. The process is simple:
  1. Submit your article using our contact form

  2. I will e-mail you back with a request for a 1-2 sentence author byline and a photo like those on Blogging Innovation

We look forward to sharing April's Innovation Perspectives with you and hearing your thoughts!

April Sponsor - Brightidea
If you missed March's Innovation Perspectives, you can find them here.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Call for April 'Innovation Perspectives'

Innovation PerspectivesApril's opportunity to contribute your Innovation Perspectives is now here.

This monthly feature presents our loyal readers with different perspectives on a single topic all in one place - from several different authors. It gives our innovation community the opportunity to compare, contrast and discuss them in the comments here on Blogging Innovation and with the 2,500+ people in the Continuous Innovation group on LinkedIn.

Here is this month's topic for publishing the week of April 26-May 2, 2010:


What is the role of social media in innovation? (Either inside or outside the organization)

Several contributing authors will be writing articles on this topic, but you are also welcome to submit an article. The process is simple:
  1. Submit your article using our contact form

  2. I will e-mail you back with a request for a 1-2 sentence author byline and a photo like those on Blogging Innovation

We look forward to sharing April's Innovation Perspectives with you and hearing your thoughts!

April Sponsor - Brightidea
If you missed March's Innovation Perspectives, you can find them here.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Innovation Perspectives March Wrapup

Innovation Perspectives
Innovation Perspectives is our monthly feature to present our loyal readers with different perspectives on a single topic all in one place along with the ability to compare, contrast and discuss them in the comments here on Blogging Innovation and in the Continuous Innovation group on LinkedIn. This month's topic was:


"How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?"
  • Thank you to Drew Boyd for submitting this month's topic

Here is a list of all of the authors that participated this month and links to their articles on this topic.

  1. Drew Boyd - Kill Your Innovation Champion

  2. Holly G Green - Excellence Only Happens in Context

  3. Cynthia DuVal - Designing Your Organization and Culture

  4. Dan Keldsen - Assessing and Building Innovation Strengths

  5. Rowan Gibson - Building Deep Innovation Capabilities

  6. Michael Soerensen - Challenge Your Specialists

  7. Willings Botha and Andreas Constantinides - Mechanistic or Organic?

  8. Braden Kelley - Where's Your Innovation Friction?

April Sponsor - Brightidea
If you would like to suggest a topic for next month's Innovation Perspectives, or would like to contribute, please leave a comment or contact us.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Where's Your Innovation Friction?

This is the eighth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Braden Kelley

Innovation Perspectives - What's Your Innovation Friction?When it comes to creating an innovation culture, often people make it far too complicated. If you're part of the senior leadership team and you're serious about innovation then your job is simple - reduce friction.

If you're serious about innovation and you're not a senior leader, then your job is to do what you can to convince senior leadership that innovation is important. Then, gently help your execs see the areas of greatest friction in your organization so they can do something about it.

When it comes to creating a culture of innovation, the most frequently cited area of friction in organizations is the acquisition of resources for innovation projects (the infamous time and money). Senior leaders serious about innovation must eliminate the friction that makes it difficult for financial and personnel resources to move across the organization to the innovation projects that need them (amongst other things).

But this particular impediment is just a part of a much larger barrier to innovation - the lack of an innovation strategy. When senior leadership commits to innovation and sets a strong and clear innovation strategy then policies and processes get changed and resources move.

I recently ran a poll on LinkedIn asking people to identify their organization's biggest barrier to entry. 548 people responded and 58% of respondents identified either the absence of an innovation strategy or the psychology of the organization as the biggest barrier. 'Organizational psychology' came out on top with 32% of the vote, with 'Absence of an innovation strategy' a close second (26%). Other choices in the poll included - 'Organizational structure', 'Information sharing', and 'Level of trust and respect'. See the poll results and comments here.

A second major area of innovation friction is the movement of information. Too often there is information in disparate parts of our organizations that remains separated and unknown to the people who need it. Organizations that reduce the friction holding back the free flow of relevant information to where it is needed will experience a quantum leap in not only their product or service development opportunities, but in many other parts of their organization including sales, marketing, and operations.

So, what are the areas of friction that are holding your organization back from reaching its full innovation potential?

What are the barriers to innovation that have risen in your organization as you struggle to maintain a healthy balance between your exploration and exploitation opportunities?


My contribution to the body of innovation literature out there will be published this fall from John Wiley & Sons and focus on some of these issues.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Mechanistic or Organic?

This is the seventh of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Willings Botha and Andreas Constantinides

Innovation Perspectives - Mechanistic or Organic?Innovation is one of the most important pillars on which successful companies rely on. Employees are the vital component in the innovation equation. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for a firm to have the right organizational structure, culture and incentives in place in order to allow its employees to be innovative and perform to their maximum ability.

Organisational structures can be classified as either mechanistic or organic. Mechanistic structures have high degrees of formalization and standardization and information flow tends to be unidirectional top-down. Furthermore, employees in mechanistic structures are constrained to conform to their job descriptions and there is tight control through sophisticated control systems. On the other hand, organic structures tend to be more free-flowing and have low degrees of formalization and standardization. Employees with expertise and knowledge are influential, irrespective of their hierarchical position. The communication channels in organic structures are open and allow free information flow and exchange of ideas. Practice has shown that organic structures are more conducive in promoting and recognizing the potential for innovations.

Organisational culture is also a very important characteristic of innovative firms. The general firm culture should be inspiring to employees, encourage risk-taking and experimentation and tolerate failure. Employees should learn from failures in order to improve chances of success in the future. The firm should also put great emphasis in training and education of employees in order to improve their technical skills and creativity techniques. Managers should be concerned with how to improve the skills of individuals and teams and how to enable their participation and commitment to innovation. They should realize that innovation is not innate or instinctive, but a skill, like carpentry or accounting, and as such it needs to be learned. Set rules or principles should support innovation and idea management. The culture should also allow teams to look for innovative ideas and concepts outside the firm's boundaries.

These can be either done by establishing synergies with other firms or by posting their research problems on electronic marketplaces for ideas, such as InnoCentive. Finally, innovative culture leverages on diversity, cross-pollination of ideas and cross-functionalism.

Apart from the organisational structure and culture, motivation and incentives also play a big role in promoting and enhancing innovation. Basically, there are two types of motivation - extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from the outside; it can be a promise of a reward or a threat of punishment that drives employees or teams to do something in order to get something desirable or avoid something painful. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is built on a passion, an interest and an internal desire to do something that no one has been able to do before. Alternatively, intrinsic motivation can be thought of as a drive to do something primarily by interest, satisfaction and mere challenge of doing it and not by external push.

Intrinsic motivation is what is essential for innovation. At a firm level, this can be achieved by continuously seeking to make innovators feel good about their achievements; recognition can take the form of a special mention or a technology award. Furthermore, innovators may be placed as leaders of teams responsible for taking their innovation to market. Firms should try everything possible to keep money out of the innovation equation because practice has shown that monetary incentives do not necessarily promote innovation.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Willings Botha and Andreas ConstantinidesWillings Botha and Andreas Constantinides are both students in the MSc program in the Management of Business, Innovation and Technology at Athens Information Technology in GREECE. They blog at http://open--innovation.blogspot.com/ and tweet at http://twitter.com/_innovation.

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Innovation Perspectives - Challenge Your Specialists

This is the sixth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Michael Soerensen

Innovation Perspectives - Challenge Your SpecialistsChallenge your specialists, to help you develop an innovative culture!

After you have checkmarked all the essentials of getting your company to focus on innovation - tools, workshops, gurus, funding, and management buy in - you are now faced with the biggest challenge:

How to develop and maintain it!?

First, try to SWOT what you need to succeed - HR competencies, communication, internal marketing, ROI methods, nifty design, IT...

Why start doing this halfhearted, when you already know that you don't possess these skills?

Many innovative efforts - even with the largest funding and management buy in - have failed because these key elements were not done properly. Instead of failing, make sure that you get carte blanche to tap into your company's specialists:

HR - They are brilliant at helping you tackle the different sub-cultures of the company - and knowing how to get them involved!

Sales & Marketing - They can help you design a marketing plan and a pitch - and your webmaster probably knows some mind-blowing methods of spreading the word on your intranet!

Finance - The numbers people will love the challenge of setting up that awesome spreadsheet on the innovation ROI!

Production & Engineering - These hands-on groups will be pleased to evaluate - and test - the groundbreaking new product ideas!

IT - Don't forget them - they are vital!


All of above are savvy specialists, who know their way around their subjects, and if you involve their key competencies in the challenge, you will be on the road to success - harnessing their vast knowledge and dedication.

And a great side effect is that you will get ambassadors and lobbyists working for your project, in every vital and strategic corner of your company!

After you do the above, don't forget to play your part:
  • Publish all results... good or bad!
  • Support, support... and support everybody involved!
  • Make sure to announce any progress - personally - and throughout the company!
  • Embrace suggestions to your project with enthusiasm!
  • In general, spread kudos and karma to everyone helping you out!

And finally - keep challenging your enrolled experts and specialists, with important new tasks!


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]



Michael SoerensenMichael Soerensen is CMO at Nosco.dk, a danish company, creators of the SaaS innovation platform; Idea Exchange. Michael is a serial entrepreneur, and after great successes and learnful failures he is now truly at home with his buddies at Nosco.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Building Deep Innovation Capabilities

This is the fifth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Rowan Gibson

Innovation Perspectives - Making Innovation a Systemic CapabilityWhen I go into a large company, one of the first questions I usually ask is this:

"Does your organization have a worldwide innovation infrastructure where anyone, anywhere can get access to the cash, the talent, and the management support they need to turn their ideas into market success stories?"

No prizes for guessing the answer. Most companies claim they want to encourage creativity, risk taking, and rule breaking, but what you invariably find is that their management infrastructure and corporate culture actually inhibit these things. Talk to successful innovators in any large company, and you will probably hear a familiar story: "I succeeded despite the system." But if would-be innovators can only succeed in an organization despite the system - if they have to fight their way heroically through a minefield to push their ideas forward - then by definition, innovation is not a systemic capability in that organization, nor is it a core value that is deeply ingrained in the corporate culture.

For innovation to become a core competence and a tangible cultural value, there has to be a substantial degree of internal consistency between processes, metrics, reward structures, rhetoric, and top management behavior - and it is precisely this synchronicity that is lacking inside most companies.

Let's take structure. In the majority of organizations, innovation is still forced to live in a disconnected silo like R&D, New Product Development, a Skunk Works, an incubator, or a New Ventures division, where it neither involves nor infects the rest of the organization. By their very nature, these enclaves lead a solitary existence, operating as an adjunct to the real work of the company, and in my experience they produce very few ideas that ever make a big impact on a company's profits.

If we want to create the kind of structure that is required for opening up innovation broadly to the organization and to people outside it, we need to think about the social systems or institutional structures that have proven to be most conducive to innovation - universities, cities, industry clusters like Silicon Valley, or, most recently, the Web itself. What creates the vibrancy and serendipity in these structures is the matrix of ever-changing human connection and conversation. However, in a large organization, over time, the conversational patterns tend to become etched in stone. There are fixed reporting lines, committee groups, task forces, and so forth. Companies tend to consign innovation to a small cadre of 'experts' in specialized departments, and they end up having the same people talking to the same people, year after year, so they lose that conversational richness. In many ways, the organizational chart actually inhibits rather than increases the chances of making random, serendipitous connections.

To make innovation a pervasive and corporate-wide capability, the responsibility for innovation needs to be broadened beyond traditional structures and spread throughout a company's businesses and functions. This is exactly what happened to quality in the 1970s and 1980s when it ceased to be the exclusive responsibility of a specific department and, instead, became distributed to every corner of the company. What is required is a similarly systemic infrastructure for innovation that starts at the corporate level and infiltrates every part of the organization chart. An infrastructure that makes managers accountable at all levels for driving, facilitating, and embedding the innovation process into every nook and cranny of the culture.

The best innovation infrastructures I have seen are linked directly to the CEO and include a global Vice President of Innovation (VPI), regional VPI's, business unit innovation officers, innovation boards, innovation consultants and innovation mentors. These new, pro-innovation structures are designed to actively foster interaction across the organization and to distribute the responsibility and expertise for innovation throughout the company. They destroy the structural silos that usually separate people, ideas, and resources, and create a high level of cross-boundary connection, conversation, and collaboration.

In addition to building such an infrastructure to orchestrate and support innovation from everyone and everywhere, companies need to create the cultural conditions that serve as catalysts for breakthrough thinking. It's not enough to simply list innovation as a core value in your corporate mission. When companies refer to innovation as a value, most of them are using the wrong term. If an organization has not yet succeeded in making innovation a truly tangible core value for all its employees, the leadership team should be calling innovation an objective or a commitment, not a value. Innovation may well be something the leaders consider to be an imperative, and that they plan to put considerable effort into, but that does not mean that it has yet become a deep value for the company. Talking about innovation - using it as a slogan in an advertisement or on a corporate letterhead - does not make it a value. Values are less about what you say and more about who you are. They define the beliefs an organization holds deep down about what is important and right, and they drive the way its people behave on a consistent basis. It is absolutely crucial to make this distinction.

For innovation to become a genuine value, it has to be deeply internalized and clearly tangible to an organization's employees. It must be something, as Marcus Buckingham might put it, that helps to "change the daily rituals" and "introduce new heroes and language" throughout the organization. It becomes the net sum of a whole variety of messages and behaviors. In fact, in many ways, it is not really something a company can work on directly; it is something that comes from addressing a lot of other issues.

Innovation can only become a true value in a company through collective learning across all its levels, functions, and businesses - usually over considerable time. People need to not just hear that ideas are welcome from everyone and everywhere, or that rule breaking and risk taking are encouraged, or that ideas are allowed to fail without incurring punishment; they need to experience these things every day. That is when a corporate value becomes tangible enough to guide patterns of behavior across the entire organizational culture.

There are certain mechanisms a company can employ and institutionalize which can help to make innovation a tangible core value. They include things like consistent messaging from leaders (in both word and deed); a discretionary time allowance for reflection, ideation, and experimentation: broad-based innovation training; an open market for ideas; easy access to incremental seed funding; management structures for mentoring and support; and incentive and reward structures that encourage challenging the status quo, risk taking and entrepreneurship.

When these mechanisms become firmly ingrained in the corporate culture they provoke the right attitudes in people. Employees get the feeling that they are part of a vibrant, innovative company. They get hooked on the excitement and energy of innovation. They find it stimulating to work in a collaborative, open culture. They see that innovation is not just management rhetoric but a widely held and deeply embedded value. And they automatically begin to demand more innovation from themselves and their peers. Thus, the demand for innovation ceases to be the sole province of the CEO or other top level executives. It starts to be driven from all levels of the organization. This is what it takes to make a corporate culture more conducive to innovation.

HR professionals can add a lot of value here. Their challenge should be to create a company culture where everyone in the company is responsible for innovation - whether as an innovator, mentor, manager, or a team member. That means that all HR systems - pay, spot awards, the long-term incentive plan, the balanced score card objectives - need to be hardwired into the company's innovation strategy.

The bottom line: building a deep innovation capability requires a systemic approach. It requires your company to patiently assemble all of the above components, and to put the necessary drivers in place so that your corporate innovation system becomes sustainable.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
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Rowan GibsonRowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller "Innovation to the Core" and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Innovation Perspectives - Assessing and Building Innovation Strengths

This is the fourth of several 'Innovation Perspectives' articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?'. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Dan Keldsen

Innovation Perspectives - Assessing and Building Innovation StrengthsIn the absence of explicit top-level innovation support, how can you go from an "innovating army of one" (always useful, but frequently not sufficient), to building out innovation teams? And not just collections of people who want to innovate, but who are the best people for any particular challenge/problem that you are looking to overcome?


Heading: Right or Left? We Need Whole Brains on the Job

The old myth of "right-brain" vs "left-brain" continues to hurt us all in the business world. There has been an immense amount of research into the psychology, skills and strengths of innovators and creative problem solvers in the last 20 years, which is only beginning to get the attention it deserves.

Creativity in a business setting is not simply about having great product designers, marketers, and other so-called "creative people." If you do not also have creative technologists, salespeople, business development, managers, executives, etc., then you will never be able to create the full potential future of your organization, as there simply won't be enough energy, time, money and resources dedicated to the effort, unless you are incredibly lucky. Unfortunately, luck isn't a terribly reliable strategy.

While whatever made you successful in the past may have put you in a good position, perhaps even #1 in your industry, when sudden and massive changes strike, such as new competition, the rise of cloud computing and SaaS when your model is dependent on legacy and on-premise deployment, or economic upheaval - staying in a "left-brain" or operational and "stay the course" rut will (more than likely) result in a crippling of your business.

You may be able to recover, but then again, if innovation only happens in an emergency, will you have let the innovation muscles and skills of your people have atrophied to the point where you can't ramp up quickly enough to react?


Innovator, Know Thyself

Fortunately, there are many ways to head off this problem, and to jump-start innovation skills at the individual level, and then to expand up from there.

Just as you would assess the requirements for a new IT system to support the business, you can assess the individual skills and strengths of your own people to understand how to best take advantage of your personnel.

There are many assessment techniques in use, although many focus on specific business or technical skills. While those skills can be and frequently *are* important, my focus is on the core and broadly applicable creative problem solving and decision making skills and strengths that we all have.

Just as the problem isn't as black and white as left-brain vs. right-brain, it is not just that you are either an innovator or you are not.

VIEW assessment of innovation
We use an assessment called VIEW, which has now been used with over 20,000 people, to assess innovation across three continuums:
  1. Orientation to change - Your responses to or ways of dealing with novelty, structure, and authority (Explorer to Developer)

  2. Manner of processing - How you manage your energy and the energy of others during problem solving (External to Internal)

  3. Ways of deciding - When making decisions, do you turn first to considering people needs, relationships, and harmony, or on the specific task and the quality of the outcomes and results? (People to Task)

By assessing the individual skills and strengths of yourself and at least your immediate and "normal" team members, you can specifically create teams that have the strengths and skills that you NEED to solve a given problem, rather than whomever happens to be around, has tenure, the "expected" technical skills, etc..

Using such an assessment can quickly point out that the teams you've created in the past, while likely to have been made of smart people, had the opposite innovation skills and strengths for the problems you've tried to solve.

Asking an extreme "in the box" thinker to come up with the next new, radical idea, while it can happen, is unlikely.

Target team creation by stacking the deck with the best of the best for that problem and you increase successful outcomes dramatically, and scientifically, repeatably.

I'm not suggesting that having technical skills to execute on ideas is not necessary, but having the skills to build/develop comes after you have first uncovered what you should be building, and those skills do not always exist in the same person.

Have you experienced working in teams that are clearly mis-matched for the problem at hand? Or perfectly aligned? Let's surface the war stories, as this is an area that needs far more attention than it typically receives.


April Sponsor - Brightidea
You can check out all of the 'Innovation Perspectives' articles from the different contributing authors on 'How should firms develop the organizational structure, culture, and incentives (e.g., for teams) to encourage successful innovation?' by clicking the link in this sentence.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]



Dan KeldsenDan Keldsen is Co-founder and Principal at Information Architected in Boston, MA, providing analysis, consulting and training services to organizations worldwide on the application of technology to knowledge workers and managers.

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