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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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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who are your positive deviants?

by Hutch Carpenter

positive deviants"The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed"

The famous William Gibson quote above is generally considered in the context of advanced technologies. Makes sense, seeing as he is a science fiction writer. But I'd like to bring the concept down to a more tangible, prosaic level. One that has value for large organizations.

Specifically, Gibson's quote is a good way way to think about innovative practices that are present in a given ecosystem or community, but which are unknown to most people.

A few months ago, the Boston Globe ran an article titled, The power of positive deviants. It profiled a new way of thinking about innovation, "positive deviance". What is that?

"Positive deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change. Instead of imposing solutions from without, the method identifies outliers in a community who, despite having no special advantages, are doing exceptionally well. By respecting local ingenuity, proponents say, the approach galvanizes community members and is often more effective and sustainable than imported blueprints"

The article includes an example, in which authorities were seeking ideas to fight incidents of the MRSA bacteria, which cling to clothes for days and are thus hard to counteract. In canvassing hospitals for a solution, researchers came across the practice of a patient transporter, Jasper Palmer. He would ball up his hospital gown, and stuff it in his inverted hospital gloves. It turns out, this is highly effective in stopping the spread of MRSA. His technique has been widely adopted, and is now called the Palmer method.

See...the future of MRSA control was already here. It was just unevenly distributed.

There are two key concepts in positive deviance:

  1. Outliers as sources of innovative practices
  2. The power of a practice that emerges from a community, not one imposed from outside it

While the Boston Globe article focuses on efforts for improving humanitarian and social problems, the approach is a useful one to consider in the context of solving tough problems for any organization.

Which Organizations Benefit?

Well, any organization can benefit from looking for examples of positive deviance to solve problems.

Who are your positive deviants?
But perhaps the approach is best suited for companies with these qualities:

  • Large, with workers distributed geographically
  • Many employees engaged in similar tasks in these various locations

The distribution of the workforce has the effect of letting different ideas propagate independently. Each person has her own ideas for how to solve different problems that will inevitably occur. Consider this evolution in the realm of work practices. Multiple species of practices can emerge, and some are better suited for long term sustainability than others.

The similarity of activities means the positive deviances can be sources of value for others. Otherwise, these outlier practices are only of value to a limited set of peers.

Eliciting Those Positive Deviations

This is the challenge, isn't it? How can organizations surface the outlier, positive deviations of employees? This is a conundrum that has bedeviled the knowledge management industry for years. People do not simply record all the things they know and do. It's not in the flow of their daily work. There's no motivation to sift through all the different things they do to.

Rather, organizations need to go looking for their positive deviants, because they're out there. Two models exist for this:
  1. Organizations treat the mining of these positive deviations as a campaign
  2. Individuals post their call for examples of how others address a problem

The first model is great for generating a large set of possible solutions to a problem. It leverages the internal communication infrastructure, and the motivation that comes when senior managers are backing an initiative. Rewards can be included in the campaign, increasing the motivation.

But that doesn't have to be the only way. Individuals will face problems that colleagues have solved previously, perhaps in an unorthodox way (e.g. the Palmer method for MRSA). Letting individuals cast a call for ideas is necessary as well. Don't make them wait until a full campaign is undertaken.

Crowdsource the solution from one's peers. With today's tools, the process of crowdsourcing for solutions is easy, enriched with analytics, anchored with workflow, searchable by everybody, and provides the basis for generating reputation scores and rewards.

The great part of this is that solutions coming from others in the organization will generally get a warmer reception than a solution from a consultant. It's just the nature of us. We listen to those who face the same challenges we do first, before someone who doesn't know the business as well.

Go ahead, find the positive deviants in your organization. Make the future a little more evenly distributed.

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Future of Social Software

"I still think that reputation and game mechanics are the future of social software."

- Tweet by Paul Pedrazzi, VP, Strategy & Innovation at Oracle Corporation

by Hutch Carpenter

The Future of Social Software - Reputation and Game MechanicsWhat an intriguing, and provocative, statement by Paul Pedrazzi. At first blush, I can hear your thoughts... "What? C'mon!" Which is exactly how most innovations start.

The reason it's provocative is that business is serious... business. And that goes for social software as well. Anything that smacks of addressing intrinsic human behaviors and motivations is suspicious on arrival for some. Just make my job efficient so I can get home.

But Paul's opinion is valid, and holds a lot of merit. The issue of creating collaborative tools has mostly been solved. Not solved as in finished in terms of innovation, but solved meaning the basics of easy posting, making content sharable and searchable, and connecting with others are done. These are the table stakes for any social software.

What's emerging on the social landscape is the notion of making contributions and sharing part of a richer, more engaging experience.

What Foursquare Is Teaching Us

Foursquare is a fast-rising social network site where users check-in from whatever location they're at. The table stakes aspect is the ability to find friends that are in a same location, and to be aware of where people have visited for future reference (e.g. when you need a recommendation). This by itself provides the core utility of the site. Similar to the core utilities of social software, as mentioned above.

But Foursquare is even better known for its game mechanics. The site has compelling attributes:
  • Points - vary by type of activity
  • Leaderboards - see who's on top
  • Badges - for a wide variety of activities
  • Mayors - the top person checking in to a location

News flash! Turns out people like lighthearted competition, status, recognition and earning awards. Integrating these as a part of the experience, not as the entire experience, is a powerful basis for increasing people's awareness and interest in a particular activity.

Game Mechanics 101

Indeed, Amy Jo Kim makes this very point. Kim holds a PhD in behavioral neuroscience, and is CEO of Shufflebrain, builders of smart games for social networks. She has helped design social games and social architecture for such companies as Electronic Arts, Digital Chocolate, Viacom, eBay and Yahoo!

In an interview on Mixergy, she makes the following observation about metagames:

"A metagame uses feedback like the kind of feedback you might see in games, statistics, a that kind of stuff. Plus rewards, which are badges and leaderboards and points and prizes and all different kinds of things that are carrots that you dangle in front of people to get them to continue to perform behaviors. Again, I want to emphasize, effective metagame design supports the reason people are there already. It doesn't distract them from it. It supports it."

This is not tacking on metagames for the sake of instantly being fun. It's metagames that are considered in the light of what the business objectives are.

Kim also discusses two types of points approaches:
  • System points
  • Social points

System points are those a user earns through direct interaction with the system. Straight activity incentives. These have their place in any social software.

Social points are where it gets more interesting. These "are points that you amass as people react to things you've done. A reputation system is based on social points-other people's reactions to what you have done." This approach is a terrific blend of rewarding quality activity, because the community is the one that determines the value.

There are rating systems in place with social software now, but few have formalized that into game mechanics.

Finally, Kim relates five game mechanics that are "particularly useful for social software and web services. They're useful, they're low hanging fruit, they're predictable. There's a lot more sophisticated things you can do, but these five are a great place to start."
  1. Earning points: anything that looks like points, smell like points, cracks like points, you know, is going to be points.

  2. Collecting mechanic: The game mechanic of collecting is very main stream. Very familiar to people. You amass collections.

  3. Feedback: Feedback keeps you on the road to mastery. It tells you if you're on the right track. It helps you get better like a great coach. That's what great feedback does.

  4. Taking turns: Taking turns or exchanges is the shorthand I use for that. So this fundamental feeling of taking turns, playing chess is taking turns, having a conversation is taking turns, many games have this back and forth of taking turns. What's important about this mechanic is that it can be implicit or explicit. And it creates social capital.

  5. Customization: Any time you have a rich profile you can decorate. Go look at people's profiles. They kinda look like games. There's badges you're collecting, they're very rich. All that kind of customization was really pioneered by games. And thinking about how to allow people to customize their experience is much more what's traditionally been in the gamer dynamic.

Some good thoughts on game mechanics and social software.

Mixing Fun with Achievement

MIT professor and Enterprise 2.0 leader and thinker Andrew McAfee wrote a post asking, "Should Knowledge Workers Have Enterprise 2.0 Ratings?" The focus of the article was on making measurement an integral part of the motivation for employees to use social software:

"And imagine further that the leaders of the organization are sincerely interested in pursuing Enterprise 2.0 and getting their people to actually use the new tools. What would they then do? What would be their smart course(s) of action?

Virtually everyone agrees that coaching, training, explaining, and leading by example would be appropriate and beneficial activities. But what about measuring? It's a technical no-brainer to measure how much each individual has contributed and to generate some kind of absolute or relative metric. Would doing so be helpful or harmful?"

In the graphic below from his post, you can see an example of how these measurement might look:

Andrew McAfee Radar ChartWhy not turn this into something fun? Or are dry Excel spreadsheet the only approach? McAfee's proposal is one of measuring and motivating. Well, as Amy Jo Kim notes above, game mechanics are terrific way to integrate such an objective into an engaging experience. For example:
  • Positive feedback = reputation score

  • Authoring = activity currency

  • Interacting = collaborator badge

Pedrazzi's tweet makes a lot of sense. We're naturally competitive, and achievements and recognition have always part of work life. Adding fun, social feedback and an achievement orientation becomes a key differentiator for companies. Integrating these dynamics into a collaborative, emergent, results-oriented culture is a clear winner.

We'll leave it with this perspective from Dachis Group's Bryan Menell:

"What better way to change behavior than to introduce elements of gaming and competitiveness? Think of the Foursquare leaderboard. Everybody wants to see their name in the Top 10...

Applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are in their infancy, but it is this type of technology, attention to culture and behavior change, combined with support for processes that will help organizations become more socially calibrated.

The way that we work, interact, and reward people in the enterprise of tomorrow will be very different. How likely is your organization to adopt similar concepts?"

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Breaking Down Internal Barriers to Innovation

by Paul Sloane

Breaking Down Internal Barriers to InnovationWithin larger organizations one of the biggest obstacles to innovation is poor internal communication. A silo mentality develops so that departments guard information and ideas rather than share them. People work hard - but in isolated groups. Internal politics can compound the problem with rivalry and turf wars obstructing collaboration. It can reach the ridiculous stage where the enemy is seen as another department inside rather than the competitors outside.

The leader has to tear down the internal fences, punish internal politics and reward cooperation. This sometimes calls for drastic or innovative actions.

Nokia has an informal rule that no one should eat lunch at their desk or go out for lunch. People are encouraged to eat in the subsidized cafeterias and to mix with people from outside their department. They have found that the informal meetings across departments are beneficial in sharing ideas and understanding.

Every organization has to find ways to promote internal communication and collaboration and to fight internal division and competition. Here are some ideas for breaking down barriers to communication:
  • Publish everyone's objectives and activities on the intranet so that people know what other people are working on.
  • Organize cross-functional teams for all sorts of projects. Make them as loose or as formal as you see fit but be sure that there is good mixing and that all of the departments contribute.
  • Arrange plenty of social and extracurricular activities, such as sports, quizzes, book clubs, hobby clubs, special interest groups etc.
  • Have innovation contests where cross-functional teams compete.
  • Have people frequently take secondary assignments in other departments.
  • Deliberately rearrange the office layout from time to time so that people move desks and sit with new groups (or adopt a 'hot desk' approach).
  • Organize a cross-functional innovation incubator.
  • Encourage department managers to look for ideas, input and solutions from outside their departments. Publicly praise managers who do this.


It is natural for departments in organizations to become more insular. As the organization grows, good internal communication becomes more and more difficult. There was a saying in Hewlett Packard: "If only HP knew what HP knows!" Very often the knowledge and skills needed to solve your problem exist elsewhere in the company. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are essential for innovation success. A key responsibility of the innovative leader is to constantly fight the silting up of the internal communications and to force contact and sharing between departments.

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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

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100 Simple, Low-Cost Ways to be More Creative on the Job

100 Simple, Low-Cost Ways to Be More Creative on the Job
by Mitch Ditkoff

  1. Ask the most creative people at work for their ideas.
  2. Brainstorm daily with a co-worker.
  3. Tape record your ideas on your commute to and from work.
  4. Present your challenge to a child.
  5. Take your team off-site for a day.

  6. Listen to your inner muse.
  7. Play music in your office.
  8. Go for a daily brainstorming walk.
  9. Ask someone to collaborate with you on your favorite project.
  10. Exercise during your lunch break.

  11. Turn on a radio at random times and listen for a "message."
  12. Invite your customers to brainstorming sessions.
  13. Think of three other ways to define your challenge.
  14. Remember your dreams.
  15. Reward yourself, in specific ways, for small successes.

  16. Introduce odd catalysts into your daily routine.
  17. Get out of the office more regularly.
  18. Play with fun toys in your office whenever you get stuck.
  19. Take more naps.
  20. Ask for help.

  21. Work in cafes.
  22. Transform your assumptions into "How can I?" questions.
  23. Write down as many ideas as you can think of in five minutes
  24. Redesign your office.
  25. Take regular daydreaming breaks.

  26. Dissolve turf boundaries.
  27. Initiate cross-functional brainstorming sessions.
  28. Arrive earlier to the office than anyone else.
  29. Turn a conference room into an upbeat "think tank" room.
  30. Read odd books - having nothing to do with your work.

  31. Block off time on your calendar for creative thinking.
  32. Take a shower in the middle of the day.
  33. Keep an idea notebook at your desk.
  34. Decorate your office with inspiring quotes and images.
  35. Create a headline of the future and the story behind it.

  36. Choose to be more creative.
  37. Recall a time in your life when you were very creative.
  38. Wander around a bookstore while thinking about your challenge.
  39. Trust your instincts more.
  40. Immerse yourself in your most exciting project.

  41. Open a magazine and free associate off of a word or image.
  42. Write down your ideas when you first wake up in the morning.
  43. Ask yourself what the simplest solution is.
  44. Get fast feedback from people you trust.
  45. Conduct more experiments.

  46. Ask yourself what the market wants or needs.
  47. Ask "What's the worst thing that could happen if I fail?"
  48. Pilot your idea, even if it's not ready.
  49. Work "in the cracks" - small bursts of creative energy.
  50. Incubate (sleep on it).
  51. Test existing boundaries - and then test them again.

  52. Schedule time with the smartest people at work.
  53. Visit your customers more frequently.
  54. Benchmark your competitors - then adapt their successes.
  55. Enroll your boss or peers into your most fascinating project.
  56. Imagine you already know the answer. What would it be?

  57. Create ground rules with your team that foster new thinking.
  58. Ask stupid questions. Then ask some more.
  59. Challenge everything you do.
  60. Give yourself a deadline - and stick to it
  61. Look for three alternatives to every solution you originate.

  62. Write your ideas in a notebook and review them regularly.
  63. Make connections between seemingly disconnected things.
  64. Use creative thinking techniques.
  65. Play with the Free the Genie cards.
  66. Use similes and metaphors when describing your ideas.

  67. Have more fun. Be sillier than usual.
  68. Ask "How can I accomplish my goal in half the time?"
  69. Take a break when you are stuck on a problem.
  70. Think how your biggest hero might approach your challenge.
  71. Declare Friday afternoons a "no-email zone."

  72. Ask three people how they would improve your idea.
  73. Create a wall of images that inspires you.
  74. Do more of what already helps you be creative off the job.
  75. Laugh more, worry less.
  76. Remember your dreams - then write them down.

  77. Ask impossible questions.
  78. Eliminate all unnecessary bureaucracy and admin tasks.
  79. Create a compelling vision of what you want to accomplish.
  80. Work on hottest project every day, even if only 5 minutes.
  81. Do whatever is necessary to create a sense of urgency.

  82. Go for a walk anytime you're stuck.
  83. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.
  84. Take more breaks.
  85. Go out for lunch with your team more often.
  86. Eat lunch with a different person each day.

  87. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  88. Invite an outside facilitator to lead a brainstorming session.
  89. Take more risks outside of the office (i.e. surf, ski, box etc.)
  90. Ask for help when you need it.
  91. Know that it is possible to make a difference.

  92. Find a mentor.
  93. Acknowledge all your successes at the end of each day.
  94. Create an "idea piggy bank" and make deposits daily.
  95. Have shorter meetings.
  96. Try the techniques in "Awake at the Wheel"

  97. Don't listen to or watch the news for 24 hours.
  98. Make drawings of your ideas.
  99. Bring your project or challenge to mind before going to bed.
  100. Divide your idea into component parts. Then rethink each part.
  101. Post this list near your desk and read it daily.

KIND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS TO: Anne Howe, David Beath, Jim Aubele, Gary Kvistad, Howard Moody, Farrell Reynolds, Hector Cruz Rosa, Jill Peckinpaugh, and Marcy Turkington for their wonderful suggestions.

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Mitch DitkoffMitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of "Awake at the Wheel", as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Companies Shouldn't Build Online Communities

by Boris Pluskowski

Companies Shouldn’t Build Online CommunitiesForget about Communities. Don't do it. Don't even think about it. Oh I know that communities are all the rage currently - companies are falling over themselves to create, build and own their very own communities: Communities of Employees, Communities of Customers, Communities of Interest Groups, Communities, Communities, Communities...

But with all of these efforts out there, how many of them are yielding real tangible results for the sponsoring organization? It seems that the very concept of communities is a flawed one for most corporations - leading to wasted time, money and effort - and I think I know why.

Let me explain:

I find that many, maybe even most, companies approach social media, and other online community projects - with very little, if any, forethought on how value will be achieved as a result of jumping on this particular bandwagon.

They seem to share a belief that value will just be created by the mere existence of a new online channel; that innovation will simply appear if you provide a new collaborative tool; that competitive advantage will be retained through the ownership of a new networking group. Yet, that's rarely ever the case.

Unlike in the movie "Field of Dreams" - you can build it - but they rarely come spontaneously - or if they do, they may well end up playing a jovial game of scrabble rather than a vintage MLB baseball game on the back lawn.

Even the word Community itself is somewhat flawed when applied to a corporate setting: Here's the Dictionary.com definition of the word:

community - [kuh-myoo-ni-tee] - noun, plural -ties.
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually prec. by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
  4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
  5. Ecclesiastical. a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
  6. Ecology. an assemblage of interacting populations occupying a given area.
  7. joint possession, enjoyment, liability, etc.: community of property.
  8. similar character; agreement; identity: community of interests.
  9. the community, the public; society: the needs of the community.

There are a lot of nice words and feelings in that definition. "A social group"; "common heritage"; "interacting populations"; "shared identity"... The word conjures up a nice warm vision of a collection of friends and associates sitting around a fireside or, for the more cynical among you, images of suburban old age homes in Florida and Arizona maybe.

As I look at that definition however - I ask myself - where's the value in that for a company? Where does it get created? Augmented? Shared? Delivered? Whichever way you look at it, communities are about people gathering with no set agenda or action in mind - so why would a company invest/waste resources to simply enable random conversations amongst a group of people? At best, it's an exercise in corporate branding to be associated with a particular conversation topic; at worst it's an exercise in wishful thinking.

At the recent World Business Forum, held in New York City on Oct 6-7, 2009, Patrick Lencioni (founder and president of the Table Group, and a fantastically articulate and dynamic speaker incidentally) spoke to the audience about "What makes a good team?" One specific question stuck with me: "If you have a bunch of people who play in a sports team each week, really get on well with each other socially, gel as a unit, yet still manage to not win a single game - are they a good team?" Patrick asked with a mischevious look at the front row and a pause for effect. "The answer is NO - they're just a bunch of LOSERS!" (cue laughter and some nervous side glances between executives either side of me).

Whilst maybe declared a tad glibly by Patrick, the core message was clear, and it got me thinking about what had been bothering me with the concept of communities for so long: That lack of performance, of achievement, of purpose. It struck me that the relative value of the concept of communities to most organizations is not dissimilar to Patrick's example of a team that doesn't win - they are, in essence, losers. And why would companies waste time creating groups of losers?

It seems to me that the failure companies are making starts right at the beginning with a badly formed misconception as to what they really need - and it's not an online community - it's an online team.

It may seem as if I'm nit-picking or playing with semantics in making this differentiation - but consider what this simple change in mindset would mean to projects as you think about how to build a great online team instead of an online community. All of a sudden you add dimensions of:
  • Direction and Leadership
  • Shared Goals, Shared Failures, and Shared Successes
  • Ensuring Participation of Diverse Skill Sets
  • Tangible Achievement
  • Passion, Purpose and Loyalty

Whist still retaining all the collaborative, cooperative and creative structures usually associated with Communities.

I don't know about you - but I know which one I'd rather build! You tell me - What's the more powerful concept?

Editor's note: If you would like to save $200 on either this year's World Business Forum or World Innovation Forum, please register with discount code "innovate"

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Boris PluskowskiBoris Pluskowski is the Founder of The Complete Innovator where he regularly shares new ideas and best practices on how big companies can harness Innovation, Collaboration and Social Media to drive new sources of value throughout the enterprise.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Earning Recognition and Respect

by Stefan Lindegaard

Earning Recognition and RespectIn Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell stated that it takes 10 years to become an expert in any given subject.

Many people actually reach this level. You might not be a professor or best-selling author, but you have probably worked long enough to become an expert in your given field - or you are on your way.

Yet, people having enough knowledge to qualify as a thought leader or expert do not get the recognition or credit they deserve - and often long for.

This is an interesting paradox. You work hard and at some point expect/hope to be perceived as an expert or thought leader, but it does not happen.

Why? The clutter of information and knowledge that surrounds us makes it so much more difficult to break through even if we have great, original ideas and an impressive knowledge base.

It is no longer enough just to qualify by knowledge to become an expert; you also need to know how to communicate and how to build a personal brand in order to become one.

I have spent more than 10 years on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am on the verge of breaking through and a recent incident prompted me to write this post and share my experiences and lessons as this might help others trying to figure out this paradox.

Obviously, this 'topic' is too broad to be covered in just one post so I will start out by sharing a few tips on what to consider if you want to be perceived as a thought leader or expert and then most likely follow-up with more posts.

Passion: You need to be passionate about what you are doing. I hope that this one is already in place for people who qualify as experts. If you decide to spend ten years on a given topic or business area then I really hope you have a passion for what you are doing.

Actually, I would argue that you could not deliver quality work over such a long period if you do not have a passion for what you do. Nevertheless, I too often meet people doing things they do not really like doing. I just do not get this...

Persistence: I remember when I started blogging several years ago. Sure, people will just come and read my thoughts. Nothing happened. Then, I got a couple of articles published in Strategy & Innovation, a respected newsletter from Innosight. Sure, companies will start looking into my services now. Nothing happened.

I started to engage with Twitter and became quite adept on social media in general. This helped drive some traffic to my blog. Sure, companies would now approach me. Things began to happen although slowly which I hope is also due to the current crisis :-). In May, I publish my first book, The Open Innovation Revolution by John Wiley & Sons, a respected, international publisher. I am curious what will happen afterwards, but the lesson here is very simple.

Nothing happens if you are not persistent.

Build a following: You do great work and you want to share this with the world. You might even want other people to help you spread the word on your work. Today, this starts by understanding how social media works. Personally, I use LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube as I focus on business topics. Others might also benefit from building a strong presence on Facebook.

Co-create with others: I recently opened up 15inno.com for other contributions on open innovation. The reason for doing this is two-fold. I really believe that sharing what is happening in the open innovation community helps this movement to continue growing. The other reason is that helping others getting recognition most likely also benefits yourself in the long run.

Be honest and 'share' yourself: I share private thoughts and lessons here. I do not have to, but I have learned that what many people really like is honesty as this reveals integrity, which again helps build authenticity. Thus, I also really appreciated this endorsement by Steve Shapiro, a great thought leader on innovation and business for my upcoming book:

"If you want 'open,' look no further. Stefan's open and (sometimes brutally) honest account of open innovation is refreshing. There is no B.S., theory, or fluff. You only get practical advice for making open innovation a reality in your organization. Let the revolution begin."

- Stephen Shapiro, Author, 24/7 Innovation; Chief Innovation Evangelist, InnoCentive

I am pleased by this as it really reflects my values of being open to helping others, working with a passion and being honest. You should try this approach as well.

What drives people to be perceived as a thought leader or expert? Money is probably on the list, but personally, my goal is to be able to work with things I feel passionate about, where I can continue to develop myself - and to get some recognition for this.

Can you relate to this? If so, then it would be great to hear about your experiences and insights...

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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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Misconceptions about Transactional Open Innovation

by Debbie Goldgaber

Misconceptions about Transactional Open InnovationOn the Harvard Business Review blog, John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, recently wrote a thought-provoking piece on the future of open innovation. They make many keen observations about the limitation companies currently face in making effective use of "Transactional Open Innovation" (TOI), defined below. However, they wrongly conclude that this is an inherent limitation of the TOI tools themselves, instead of a limit related to the way that enterprises presently organize R&D practices and processes.

Where Hagel et al., are most astute is with respect to identifying the drivers of open innovation, e.g rapid depreciation of "information stocks" and an Internet ecology rapidly evolving to facilitate the flow of information. These are the reasons that forward-looking companies like General Mills and P&G launched their often-cited open innovation experiments. Other companies, the authors of the HBR piece suggest, are following suite, at least in part, as a result of the pressure to appear au courant with the latest management trends.

These authors suggest, however, that it would be a disservice to executives considering OI programs to focus unduly on what they term transactional OI - i.e. defined, "short term transactions" that seek to source ideas and solutions from outside the corporate fence. Most typically, the TOI process would involve the following steps: "problem posted, solution offered, payment made, transaction completed, all parties move on." This model is great, they explain, as far as it goes; while the successes of this model have been well-documented and plentiful, there are several reasons why TOI is essentially limited in its impact. It is limited:
  • to a certain sub-set of problems
  • in its ability to transmit "tacit" knowledge
  • in its ability to enable effective execution
  • in its ability to solicit the long-term engagement of either party of the transaction

For all these reasons, we are urged by the authors of this study to move beyond TOI tools to a more integrative approach that, in focusing on long-term knowledge transfer relationships, is capable of overcoming these limitations. The problem is whether this imagined "overcoming" of TOI does not instead imply a return to a more traditional consulting model, even if it would possibly involve more players. But TOI tools seemed to be so attractive exactly because they held out the promise of eliminating the knowledge middleman, directly tapping diverse sources of knowledge without necessitating the long-term commitments.

In fact, the first 3 reasons offered are really aspects of a single challenge that faces TOI: how to broadcast an internal problem, one which might be difficult for those unfamiliar with the problem's context to "get," and how to evaluate a solution that may either not look like what you might have expected or might not include all the information that you need in order to understand and execute the solution. If this aspect of the transaction were not a problem than TOI's failure to solicit long-term engagement wouldn't be presented as a fault, since what you wanted from TOI in the first place is actionable information at the ready, and not long-term, costly commitments.

TOI is so limited as an OI model, according to these authors, because the issue of "tacit knowledge" in enterprise problem-solving looms so large. If tacit information is by definition what cannot be made explicit, recorded or presented, and therefore included in any problem formalization, then tacit knowledge would mark the limit of the effectiveness of transactional OI tools in particular. Where tacit knowledge or 'know-how' rules, TOI cannot get a grip for the simple reason that there's no effective way to transmit crucial information from one party to another. But this kind of internal limit to the fluidity or "transactibility" of knowledge is belied by the very forces that the authors admit are driving OI in the first place.

For one reason or another it seems that knowledge is becoming more of a transactional affair than ever before. However, just after affirming this, the author's seem to say that many of the most interesting and pressing problems a company faces are those that involve a decisive component of tacit-knowledge, and it is for this reason that the authors recommend that long-term relationships and engagements remain the focus of OI programs.

As I see it, the problem with the argument of Hagel et al, is just that they seem to consider the amount of tacit knowledge in a problem-solving situation as a constant - as if the ratio of tacit-to-explicit-knowledge were something that was not amenable to change. In fact, the importance of tacit-knowledge in a problem-solving situation varies according to concrete practices adopted within a problem-solving community. Looking to specific cases, most notably in software development, we see that this ratio is subject to significant modification. It is, in other words, the adoption of certain practices and norms (the wide use of wikis being one specific tool) that can increase the 'transactibility' of knowledge and therefore transform the way problems get solved and the way that work gets done.

To my knowledge, it is Michael Nielsen that first formulated this thought with his concept of "conscious modularity." According to Nielsen, open source software projects, like Linux, didn't manage to effectively divide work across a large number of people due to some "natural" modularity of the project, or to the natural modularity of software development in general. On the contrary, according to Nielsen, the people engaged in these projects consciously worked to keep tasks modular. And contrary to common perception, achieving and sustaining this modularity took an "enormous effort." This heavy-lifting is undertaken in the first place so that work "can be divided up, making it easier to scale the collaboration, and so get the benefits of diverse expertise and more aggregate effort."

If we take Nielsen's suggestion here, we can conclude that before we herald the limits of TOI, we should first ask how much effort companies have made to make their processes, problems, research and development modular. The sort of effort Nielsen describes will allow companies to make effective use of TOI tools, and thereby offer enterprises an economically efficient way to maximize their exposure to innovative ideas and expertise. Furthermore, we can expect that level of modularity would vary across industries and problem-type.

It is probably unrealistic to think that without doing this kind of internal work companies can effectively integrate TOI tools in their own workflows, creating the kind of culture where ideas "proudly found elsewhere" can be executed internally. Sure ideas that are selected from the outside need to be adapted with an eye towards internal specifications, but with the development of more modular processes, it seems likely that more and more problems will be amenable to TOI, the opposite conclusion to the one reached by Hagel et al.

If that's true, then far from needing to "overcome itself," TOI is still something aspirational (at least for most companies). This is something that hypios, an OI ecosystem that includes a TOI platform, has learned from innumerable conversations with clients and partners. It is for this reason that we strongly encourage companies we work with to make sure they do the prep work. The best prep work is of course to work hard to capture knowledge internally, through tools like intrapreneurship and other forms of intra-firm knowledge-capture. So perhaps what each executive embarking on an OI experiment should ask him/herself is "am I prepared to do the kind of long-term work that will ultimately make TOI an effective tool in my OI portfolio?"

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Debbie GoldgaberDebbie Goldgaber is Deputy VP of Concepts + Communciations @ hypios which provides enterprises with open innovation ecosystems. She is also a PhD candidate @ Northwestern University.

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Innovation Perspectives - Designing Your Organization and Culture

To Encourage and Facilitate Interdisciplinary Conflict, Collaboration and Experimentation

This is the third 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 Cynthia DuVal

Innovation Perspectives - Designing Your Organization and CultureIf you want to encourage successful innovation take a lesson from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Of all of the companies I've worked for or with, PARC, under the direction of John Seely Brown, was the best at inventing answers to this question. And maybe that is the answer: If you aren't successfully innovating now, change your current structures, cultures and incentives to encourage interdisciplinary conflict and collaboration and I might add, get out of the way of self-motivated creativity.

Successful innovations sometime flow from the historical trajectory of technical and academic knowledge. Lots of great innovations have evolved along this path. At other times successful innovations emerge out of interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations that result in leap thinking. By leap thinking I mean thinking that starts a new line of innovative thought and action. Leap thinking isn't something that can be predicted before it happens, it emerges out of artistic ways of knowing more so than scientific and so, can lead to something altogether new and to market advantages. (I know this is an over simplification.)

I've sought out the opportunity to observe and experience leap thinking and innovation in my career so I can tell you a little bit about what I've learned through two stories about how I see it related to organizational structure and culture.

First is a story of how leap thinking can be fostered by organizational structures. In 1994 John Seely Brown, Rich Gold and Mark Weiser designed an organizational structure experiment with hopes of achieving leap thinking across disciplines at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. The experiment was called Xerox PARC Artist in Residence Program or PAIR. I was a graduate intern on this project. We brought a group of inventive Bay Area electronic artists into the PARC facility to work in collaboration with PARC scientists. The scientists were working in computer software, artificial intelligence, physics, mathematics, interface design, hardware and social science disciplines.

John Seely Brown: http://www.johnseelybrown.com/
Rich Gold: http://richgoldmemorial.onomy.com/
Mark Weiser: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Weiser

Just one of the outcomes of this experiment was the 1997 Future of Reading Show at the San Jose Museum of Technology that PAIR artists and scientists designed. An innovative endeavor in itself the exhibit featured several inventive exhibits. One such exhibit was a metal dog sculpture that could and still can read a book. The dog is a fabulous and pioneering piece of techno-art. PARC artist/scientist/technologists Dale MacDonald and Scott Minneman subsequently started Onomy Labs and continue to create inventive and aesthetically clever techno-art exhibits for corporate customers today. So, this one organizational change program did indeed lead innovations in professional work trajectories, in the role that PARC played in the regional culture and in the creation of exhibits that captured in highly creative ways, the potential of technology to create the future of reading.

Now I'll tell you a story of how organizational culture facilitates leap thinking. This example also comes from Xerox PARC. PARC culture made it easy for people to learn about each others' work. This was manifested in several ways. One way was to have an open cafeteria with good food that encouraged people to stay in the building and eat together in cross-functional groups. Another was to hold company-wide symposiums with special guest speakers who would talk about topics of interest to he multidisciplinary audience. Another was that people were free to seek each other out for consultations, conversations and collaborations. I can't tell you how many organizations I've worked at since that failed to capture intellectual capital because they didn't facilitate freedom of communication between groups and levels. (I almost got fired more than once for trying to take advantage of open door policies that were nothing of the kind.)

Another was the excellent library where reports were posted and people could bump into each other and browse books and periodicals outside their own professions. It was in this corporate culture that Mark Weiser invented the concept of ubiquitous computing.

Here is the story. Mark was having conversations with Lucy Suchman, Gitti Jordan, and other anthropologists who were pioneering observational work practice research at Xerox at the time he was Director of the Computer Science Lab. These brilliant social scientists had achieved compelling research results by observing how people actually used Xerox machines in the flow of their on-going work. This was revolutionary at the time. They also observed in minute detail how people thought as they interacted with Xerox machines and and interfaces. Using this unconventional method for understanding machine design they began to see how people fit into the design process and in essence launched the user-centered design profession. In conversations with Mark they argued that the old paradigm of building on the shoulders of giants was not the right approach to invention, that computer science was stagnating and they wanted to know, "What are you going to do about it?"

Lucy Suchman: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/sociology/profiles/31/
Gitti Jordan: http://www.lifescapes.org/

Mark was deeply troubled by their opinion and challenge and struggled to make sense of their perspective and his own sense of discomfort over their criticism. The challenge caused Mark to question his own perspective. He used a creative thinking process and applied the "situated learning" concept to computer science. He got the idea that computers were forcing people to work at a desk and were not supporting people in the environments in which they naturally worked. Voila! He got the idea for ubiquitous computing; computers could be situated in environments in different configurations and embedded in objects to facilitate work. This was a leap in thinking that has revolutionized life as we know it. A supportive organizational structure influenced by a permissive organizational culture combined with interdisciplinary conflict and individual creative effort and thinking, was the primordial stew out of which Mark invented an entirely new industry. And we all know how many subsequent innovations have come from that!

Ubiquitous computing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_computing

March 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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Cynthia DuValCynthia DuVal is an experienced ethnographer and the Founding Director of the DuVal Ethnographic Research Center & Change Agency.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive Advantage

by Matt Heinz

Customer Loyalty is Your Ultimate Competitive AdvantageIt's not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don't see too many executives saying they don't want more of them. But what's interesting to me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs.

New customer sales & marketing? - At most companies that means a meaningful lead generation budget, a full sales team, lots of support and attention.

Existing customers? - A newsletter, maybe some training, and an 800-number if they have questions.

This is a broad generalization, but you get the point (and you've seen it, both at companies you work with and for, as well as directly as a customer of others).

How are your current customers perhaps your most valuable competitive edge?
  • Treat them right - deliver a fantastic product or service - and you can count on their business for life

  • Be remarkable, and they'll tell their friends and colleagues about you as well

  • Earn their trust, and they'll tell you exactly what they're seeing in the market - your competitors, new innovations, etc.

  • Engage them regularly, and they'll tell you when you're wrong, when you screw up, and give you time to fix it

  • Actively listen, react to their feedback, innovate when they ask, and they won't go anywhere

  • Create an army of ambassadors, and they're an extension of your sales force in situations you have zero access to today

  • Make them your eyes and ears, and they'll give you the earliest heads-up possible to any competitive threat on the horizon (with enough time to react, adjust, and cut competitors off at the knees before they can get momentum)

  • Ask them to brainstorm with you, and they'll give you far better, more creative ideas than you'd ever come up with yourself

  • Surprise them with your responsiveness, speed and approachability, and they'll treat you like a loyal friend

You can do this. You can do all of this, and most of it doesn't cost any more than a change in how you manage your customers. How you talk to them. How often, with a different message, a different tone, and both more frequency and thoughtfulness.

Your customers desperately want this from you. They've made a commitment to you (in a big or small way), and all they ask is that you return that commitment to them.

There's no question in my mind that every business has significant and measurable revenue potential with greater focus here.

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at matt@heinzmarketing.com or visit www.heinzmarketing.com.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

11 Ways to Implement a Culture of Innovation

by Geoff Zoeckler

11 Ways to Implement a Culture of InnovationOn Wednesday, March 10, 2010, I had the privilege of attending an innovation conference and discussion - Elsevier's Corporate Connect Event: Implementing a Culture of Innovation. Given the low price tag (free) and complete sponsorship by one company (Elsevier), I was not sure how much information I would be able to apply directly to my company. I was very pleased to find that the event was far from a day long sales pitch and was truly an opportunity to connect and talk about ways to improve innovation within company walls.

The event was organized into four presentations and one expert panel discussion (with multiple networking opportunities in-between).

Presentation topics:
  1. Elsevier's Innovation Journey (Jeff Honious at Elsevier)
  2. Building a Culture of Innovation (Peter Skarzynski at Strategos)
  3. Implementing a Culture of Innovation (Mike Hess at Medtronic)
  4. Supporting a Culture of Innovation (Cynthia A. Larson at Eaton)

The expert panel consisted of four Information Specialists (super librarians) from Eaton, Abbot Labs, Kimberly Clark, and St. Jude Medical. The Q&A centered on understanding the role that internal and external information plays to support innovation and how to improve the way employees access that information.

Below is my "Top 11" summary from the conference. To help foster further discussion, I have placed company links throughout this summary and LinkeIn links for each of the presenters.

Build Your Innovation Culture:

#1 - Include the Most Important Member of Your Innovation Team - The End User

The customer is king was mentioned (in various ways) during every presentation. All innovation efforts will fail eventually if the end user is not driven to use your new product or service. Make sure everything you do starts with: "Who is the end user and why do they want this?"

For the most part, humans are intelligent and know when you have come up with something that will truly impact their life. It is true that people can not always voice their needs and desires in a way that makes sense, but your challenge should be to find creative ways to understand their behaviors and figure out how to include them in your innovation process.

#2 - Challenge an Orthodoxy (The Way Things Are)

The point of innovation is to come up with new ideas that can be turned into tangible outcomes (most measure in terms of profit or other quantitative metrics). However, some of the best ideas are not 'new' ideas but are instead challenges to existing assumptions (think of Apple challenging the way music was sold or Dell challenging the way computer were purchased and assembled).

However, those kinds of insights require all employees to be comfortable challenging the "way things are" around them. The further out in the organization you can instill this mentality, the more impact it will have on your culture. What benefit could come from your line workers feeling like it was there job to suggest new ways of doing things?

While it is not the overly positive case study it once was, Toyota is known for keeping low costs by listening to the ideas of their assembly workers.

#3 - Get Someone "Up Top" Interested

The majority of innovation teams start when a CEO or CIO says that it will be so. Those struggling to improve things from the bottom up without initial support will need to work to get the attention of someone up top. Without top level support, you may never gain the resources needed to really move the dial and impact the entire organization.

#4 - Take a Diagonal Slice Across the Organization

Diagonal Slice Across the OrganizationWhen assembling a new innovation team, it is best to take a cross functional/diagonal cut through the organization. Many companies start with something that looks like a country club meeting with top level executives getting together to discuss how to improve the performance of the common employee.

Instead of limiting the innovation team to top level strategic thinkers, make sure you include some middle level managers and some low level individual contributors. On top of getting suggestions from various levels throughout the organization, you will also be adding team members who are willing to put in extra effort to take advantage of the exciting opportunity.

Oh yeah, and all members should want to be part of the group. If someone doesn't have passion for improving innovation, they will never find the time needed to make an impact.

#5 - Don't Forget Your Managers - Their Brains Still Work

Most managers were once the lower lever employees who went to college, dreamed of making the world a better place, and happily moved away from concentrated individual work to manage a team towards bigger objectives. Managing a team doesn't allow for many individual contributions, but managers' brains are still working (most of them anyway).

When you are looking to implement a company-wide innovation process, make sure you create systems that allow and encourage managers to give quick bursts of energy and submit their individual ideas.

Keep the Momentum Going:

#6 - Stick to the Vision at All Costs - Do the Coin Test

Stick to the Vision at All CostsWhen you deviate from your initial founding vision, you increase the space between you and your current consumer. You also dilute resources, reduce focus, and most importantly diminish employee passion. Ideas are cheap.

Many paths end with increase profits. Make sure your path lines up with your vision so that all employees will passionately follow. Follow Medtronic's example and carry a physical reminder of the corporate vision on a coin. When you have a tough decision to make, review the vision on the coin to help set your path. If you don't have a clear vision that links to a consumer benefit, then that is the first place to start.

#7 - Demonstrate the Benefit

All innovation efforts should be tracked and measured. While is not always easy to quantify the impact of improving the culture or the benefit in increased communication, you can track things like the geographical diversity of idea contributors (put stars on a world map), the number of unique idea contributors, and the total number of ideas generated. When you do get a solid win, make sure you take the time to communicate it across the company.

#8 - Expect 96% Failure Rate

I was surprised by the finding that 96% of innovation efforts fail, but I would have guessed that failure was near 90% from my past experiences. Whatever the number is for your industry, failure is part of the innovation process. Your goal is to create a process that allows you to fail quickly and avoid wasting resources. How are you set up to learn from your mistakes and keep moving with renewed passion?

#9 - Develop an Innovation "Pressure Cooker"

New ideas can't get off the ground relying only on 15 minute blocks of time between meetings or other project work. From time to time you need to grab a team of people, rent a space off site, and commit days at a time to uncovering new consumer insights and product ideas. Make sure enough time is allowed to get from the discovery phase all the way to the creation of a full action plan and timeline. When possible, bring in some of your end users to the session.

Recognize what Success Looks Like

#10 - Increase Human Connections

When reviewing your innovation efforts, make sure to determine if you connected people and increased dialog. If you got people talking, then you were successful. If no new conversations have started, you need to rethink your approach.

#11 - Build Your Planet Memory Alpha

Build Your Planet Memory AlphaWhen the panel of Information Specialists was asked what the future of innovation management would look like, Star Trek's Planet Memory Alpha was the quick answer. While I am not much of a Star Trek fan, I believed the expert panel when they described the planet as the ideal location for 'external innovation'. The Star Trek planet stored all historical knowledge for the universe and anyone could access that information.

While we live in a society of patents, trade secrets, and general information secrecy; increasing the availability of information is important for innovation. One significant opportunity discussed would be to improve the availability of internal information and improve how it connects to external information. What would it be like if when you searched Google to find external information, you were also searching all internal knowledge? How else could that connection be improved?

If you want to continue the discussion with me, jot your comments below.

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Geoff ZoecklerGeoff Zoeckler is a young, passionate innovator with 7+ years in product development roles leading the front end of innovation. Geoff is looking to connect to share personal insights to improve corporate innovation culture from the bottom up.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ten Reasons Your Corporate Social Network Should be an Innovation Social Network

by Matthew Greeley

Ten Reasons Your Corporate Social Network Should be an Innovation Social Network
  1. Adoption - There is no doubt online communities are valuable and powerful, but there is no value if your community is an empty dance floor. Generic communities based on generic tools, often have no stated purpose and employees or customers don't know why they should go there. Idea Portals are a proven way to get very rapid uptake because there is something in it for the end user. Either participating in the product direction or cutting costs instead of headcount...there's an obvious 'What's in it for me?' and that drives rapid adoption out of the gate.

  2. ROI - In today's environment the bean counters are holding the purse strings pretty tightly. So a technology looking for a problem is dead on arrival. However with Innovation we are often talking to our customers about Millions, Hundreds of Millions and Billions of dollars. By connecting the benefits of social networking with the innovation process the ROI is obvious, immediate, quantifiable and large.

  3. Innovation is a Social Activity - and can not be managed or automated with older transaction-or workflow-based enterprise software. By allowing individuals to interact with Innovation Management and Measurement is the first true killer app of the social software revolution.

  4. Important Stuff Falls Through the Cracks with Horizontal Communities and Platforms - Like stock market bubbles, this is a lesson that has be re-learned with every generation. The instinct to build a one-size-fits-all solution to "capture more of the market" almost always leads to failure. Vendors that focus on specific niches, sub-categories, roles, functions, jobs and even specific tasks as customer is trying to get done - deliver more value, and win out in the end. If your social networking platform is generic, beware, you may be fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

  5. Your Company May be Trying to Create a "Culture of Innovation" - Right Now! - Sit in on an executive meeting and the topic of innovation is likely to come up many times. By tying the roll-out of an internal social networking platform to the innovation process you ensure you are aligned with the goals of the company and your budget is less likely to be cut.

  6. It's Fun! - How would you like to see all the best ideas your group, department or company has to offer? And all the innovative projects people are working on? By working on these systems, you literally get to see the future of the company as it takes shape.

  7. Silo Busting is More Important to Innovation than Anything Else the Company Does - Social Networks naturally break down silos, increase communication and enable ad hoc relationships to form... while that can be helpful in areas such as customer support, it is EXACTLY what is needed in corporate innovation, where the current organizational structure often the culprit stifling creativity and collaboration. Innovation is the killer app for this new paradigm.

  8. Innovation Data HAS to be Controlled by the Company - As employees proactively reach for consumer Web 2.0 tools to make their job easier with out approval from the IT department, dangerous data-ownership issues arise quickly. A seemingly harmless employee- or customer user- group setup on facebook can spring a leak in your intellectual property regime. Do you really want the intellectual property rights of your company's latest ideas to be subject to facebook's latest terms of service? Saavy CIO's will be ahead of the curve to set standards for where these types of communities can reside.

  9. Inter-Company Collaboration - Many innovation initiatives involve customers, partners or suppliers. An online social network is a great way to have 'facetime' and maintain relationships when you don't see those people every day.

  10. It's easy to get started - You don't need to establish an enterprise wide roll-out strategy, to run a group or product-focused brainstorm. If you are hearing "Innovate in a Recession" or "Do More with Less" you can launch your first Innovation Community in a few hours.

Thanks for listening, I'd love to hear your perspective on this. Until next time, Keep Innovating...

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Matthew GreeleyMatthew Greeley is Founder and CEO of Brightidea, the global leader in On-Demand Innovation Management software. Prior to founding Brightidea, Matthew consulted for Wrenchead.com, helping them raise over $100 million in venture funding. Follow him on twitter @brightidea.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why a Networking Culture Is Important

by Stefan Lindegaard

Why a Networking Culture is ImportantThe reason for creating a networking culture is obvious once you look at the current and future direction of innovation. Let's start by disposing of the myth of the lone genius (the Thomas Edisons and the Alexander Graham Bells of yesteryear) arriving at a breakthrough innovation on his/her own.

This model wasn't true then, and even if it were, it simply does not hold true in today's complex business organizations. Technology and the challenges that must be solved have become so complex that many, perhaps even most, companies can no longer rely solely on their own internal innovation geniuses, no matter how brilliant those people may be.

Innovation is increasingly about having groups of people come together to leverage their diverse talents and expertise to solve multi-faceted challenges that cross multiple disciplines. To make this happen within your organization, and beyond as you move toward open innovation, requires a networking culture that is designed, supported, and modeled by your company's leaders.

Even organizations that are not ready to fully embrace open innovation are finding that employees' mindsets about networking must be stretched as more companies deploy internal R & D functions outside the corporate headquarters and around the world.

Employees start to wonder who should do innovation and where it should take place. Although this is positive, success in such situations depends heavily on the ability of the employees to initiate, solidify, and leverage external relationships.

Another key motivation for setting up networking initiatives is based on the simple fact that the knowledge of any company is inside the heads of the employees. Discovering and distributing this knowledge has always been a challenge, and now, more than ever, the ability to leverage a company's collective knowledge and experience through virtual and face-to-face networks and communities is critical to innovation.

Furthermore, establishing the ability to bring knowledge and potential new innovation insights in from external sources demands a strong networking culture supported and modeled from the top.

In one of my next posts, I will give some advice on how to create a networking culture.

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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Innovating to Compete

by Drew Boyd

Innovating to CompeteInnovating is a form of competitive behavior. When we innovate, we compete with someone or something. We innovate to survive. We innovate for glory. We innovate to win. Leaders of organizations need to understand and leverage this competitive aspect of innovation to embed it into the organization.

Innovating to compete occurs at many levels:
  • At the national level, governments compete with other nations for trade, economic power, and global political influence.

  • At the municipal level, cities compete aggressively to attract investment, firms, and employees to stimulate jobs and economic growth.

  • At the industry level, competition among sectors is fierce. Industries want to attract customers, investment, talent, and favorable government treatment.

  • At the company level, firms want to be more competitive by differentiating themselves in the marketplace.

  • At the business unit level, franchises compete with one another for budget resources and manpower.

  • At the individual level, peer rivals compete with each other for promotion and bonuses.

  • At the personal level, we compete with ourselves to achieve a new "personal best" when overcoming challenges.

Here are suggestions of what leaders can do to embrace competition and drive innovation:
  1. National: Governments need to create a National Innovation Policy. The policy should outline a vision, identify opportunities, create guidelines for investment, coordinate partnerships, and nurture the development of human talent. Here is an excellent example of an innovation policy from the Czech Republic. Countries that pursue these policies will thrive.

  2. Municipal: Cities compete just as nations do. At the city level, government leaders can further the state of innovation by coordinating activities between firms, entrepreneurs, venture funds, and universities. Many cities spark innovation by sponsoring innovation contests.

  3. Industry: To be more innovative, firms within the same industry need to band together and form trade groups to facilitate and coordinate programs that sustain the vitality of the industry. Trade groups can no longer focus just on government lobbying. They need a coordinated approach to technology transfer and scientific investment. They need to address the systemic flaws in their industry that stifle growth.

  4. Firm: Companies need to train their employees how to innovate using systematic tools and processes. Firms need to "innovate on demand" and maintain a healthy flow of new projects into the pipeline. Most importantly, innovation strategy must be pursued within the context of competitive strategy.

  5. Business Unit: The business unit is where innovation happens. Innovation is a team sport, and franchise leaders need to deploy teams using facilitated workshops to create new products and services. Leaders should allocate resources disproportionately to those who systematically produce new pipeline concepts...organically.

  6. Individual: People succeed through innovation. An employee's value and vitality is sustained by the ability to generate novel ideas day in and day out. People need to see innovation as a skill, not a gift, that can be learned through university or corporate training programs.

  7. Self: At this level, it starts with a simple question: "Am I an innovator?" Says Steve Banhegyi, "Your self image controls your level of personal innovation. Your ability to innovate rests largely on who you think you are. You are as innovative as your narrative allows you to be."

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Director of Marketing Mastery for Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon Endo-Surgery division). He is also Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at www.innovationinpractice.com and at http://twitter.com/drewboyd

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