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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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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do you have an Anti-Creativity Checklist?

by Braden Kelley

I came across Yougme Moon's "Anti-Creativity Checklist" over at the Harvard Business Review after a tweet from @lindegaard and it got me thinking...

In order to build a culture capable of encouraging innovation or creativity (or both), you must first do an inventory of the psychology and mental models in play in your organization.

One great way to do this would be to build an 'anti-innovation checklist' or an 'anti-creativity checklist'. If you start watching the vocabulary that people use in meetings where ideas are being discussed, the behavior of senior leadership as it relates to these areas, and most importantly - how people respond - you'll get a better sense of where your organizational challenges lie with respect to innovation and creativity. Wouldn't that make such an exercise of great value to an organization?

Anyways, as an example, I've pulled out the fourteen items on Yougme Moon's checklist from the video above, which you may just want to watch:
  1. Play it safe. Listen to that inner voice.
  2. Know your limitations. Don't be afraid to pigeonhole yourself.
  3. Remind yourself: It's just a job.
  4. Show you're the smartest guy in the room. Make skepticism your middle name.
  5. Be the tough guy. Demand to see the data.
  6. Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
  7. Stop the madness before it can get started. Crush early-stage ideas with your business savvy.
  8. Been there, done that. Use experience as weapon.
  9. Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
  10. Assume there is no problem.
  11. Underestimate your customers.
  12. Be a mentor. Give sound advice to the people who work for you.
  13. Be suspicious of the "creatives" in your organization.
  14. When all else fails, act like a grown-up.

What is on your "anti-innovation checklist" or your "anti-creativity checklist"?

Please feel free to share yours in the comments below.

Related Article:

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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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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Performance Paradox

by Stephen Shapiro

The Performance ParadoxEvery leader dreams of finding the magic bullet that will increase creativity, boost productivity, and improve morale. Surprisingly, one of the most effective solutions may be the most counterintuitive: sometimes less effort, not more, yields optimal results.

Keep Your Eye on the Present

A few years ago, I worked with a Formula One racing team. Pit crews, consisting of 19 people, serviced the ultrafast, high-tech race - refueling cars, changing tires, and performing required maintenance in a matter of seconds. The crew members continually shifted positions to find the best combination for the optimal configuration of the team. As they practiced, they used a stopwatch to measure their time to milliseconds. Yet, ultimately, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't work any faster. They had hit their performance plateau.

Then, they tried a new approach. They decided not to concentrate on their time, but on their style instead. Now, their movements became more significant than their speed. Astonishingly, the crew shaved several tenths of a second off their best time, even though they "felt" they were moving more slowly. This experiment reinforces the concept that the more you focus on your goals, the less likely you are to achieve them. By worrying about the future, you take your eye off the present.

In higher intellectual activities, the results are even more pronounced. Take the true story of a high school student who became increasingly anxious over passing her upcoming final exam in math, always her weakest subject. She studied hard, all the time focusing on her goal of passing her exam. In spite of her efforts, she failed. She pleaded with her teachers to give her one more chance. They did. This time, instead of concentrating on the goal, she used a powerful creativity technique.

Her first conscious thought each day when she awoke was to visualize herself as Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, a very successful, highly educated woman. Dr. Rice wouldn't worry about a high school math exam, right? By imagining she was someone else, she stopped agonizing and gained more confidence daily. By focusing on the present rather than the result, she scored a 93%, her greatest performance with less effort.

Dare to Be Different

Does this also apply to sales? Can we perform better when we don't focus on our sales goals? A woman's clothing store had a competition to determine who among its employees could sell the most in two months. The winner would receive a bonus and, possibly, a raise. All had their eyes on the prize, except for one sales rep who decided on a different approach. Instead of trying to make a sale, she zeroed in on serving the customer. If a customer needed help for eight hours to pick out a blouse, that's what she would do. If she felt customers would find a better product at a competitor, she would send them there. After two months, this sales person who was not trying to make sales outsold everyone else by a significant margin.

We have seen similar results in many sales and service organizations. We all know (and believe) the expression, "You get what you measure." But a serious question arises: will you get what you want? Often, targets and goals create stress and dysfunctional behavior.

Less Motivation, More Performance

The concept of reducing goal-obsession to improve performance is not new. In the early 1900s, Robert Yerkes and J.D. Dodson developed the eponymous Yerkes-Dodson Law. The premise is performance increases relative to motivation only to a point, after which performance drops. Typically, it is drawn as an inverted U-shaped curve.

If you lack motivation, the result is low performance. This is not surprising. As your motivation increases, your performance increases - to a point. This point is the sweet spot of optimal performance. Then, as you become more goal-obsessed, performance paradoxically decreases. Goals increase stress and cause you to fixate on the future rather than the present.

Yerkes and Dodson suggest that different tasks require different levels of motivation. For example, physically demanding tasks often require higher levels of motivation. This explains why professional athletes are inclined to be very goal-driven. Even so, as demonstrated by the pit crew example, too much goal orientation will hurt even athletic performance. In 2004, the New England Patriots broke the records for the longest winning streak in NFL history - 20 games in a row. At a press conference after the game a reporter asked the team's coach, Bill Belichick, to comment on this winning streak. He replied, "We did not have a 20-game win streak. We had 20 one-game win streaks." His philosophy was for the team to play each game to the best of its ability. Setting your sights too far ahead is a sure recipe for failure.

Creativity Has its Own Rewards

Within the business world, Yerkes and Dodson found that intellectually challenging tasks required lower levels of motivation. The more creative the work, the less motivation required to hit peak levels of performance. Studies reveal that creativity diminishes when individuals are rewarded (externally motivated) for doing their work. Why? The desire to achieve the goal overtakes the personal interest in the endeavor. A myopic focus on the outcome overshadows the intellectual stimulation of the process. As a result, risk taking becomes reduced and creativity vanishes.

"Working hard" may not be the best way to improve productivity and creativity. Maybe it isn't even "working smarter." As we have seen, perhaps the answer lies in trying less. Or maybe it can be found in understanding human behavior and motivation, as illustrated in the following studies.

Your Loss Could Be Your Gain

Which magazine do you think American men are more likely to buy?
  • A men's health magazine with the cover, "Lose Your Gut Fast" or
  • A similar magazine with the cover, "Get Six-Pack Abs"?

Although most people intuitively think that the second cover, "Get Six-Pack Abs," is the sure winner, when a magazine did such a comparison, it found that "Lose Your Gut Fast" sold six times more copies. Why? The answer lies in the three requirements for individuals (or an organization or a society) to change:
  1. They must be dissatisfied or uncomfortable with the current situation.
  2. They must foresee a better future.
  3. They must believe that they can reach that better future with a reasonable amount of effort.

Point #3 is critical. Using the "gut" example, when someone is 20 pounds overweight, as are many Americans, six-pack abs may be desirable yet seem inconceivable. It's just too much work, and the likelihood of success seems poor. Only when your gut is gone will the idea of six-pack abs seem like a possibility. Similarly, only when your organization is a lean, mean fighting machine will people embrace longer-term, strategic visions.

A question I ask when I address my audiences illustrates this concept further: "Which would you choose?":
  • Option 1: A guaranteed gain of $75,000 or
  • Option 2: An 80% chance to gain $100,000 with a 20% chance of getting nothing?

Seventy-five percent of audience members choose Option 1, consistent across all groups, regardless of demographics. People are risk averse when it comes to increasing gains. What would you choose if I worded the question as a loss rather than as a gain?:
  • Option 1: A certain loss of $75,000 or
  • Option 2: An 80% chance of losing $100,000 with a 20% chance of not losing anything

Over 80% of my audiences choose Option 2. People will take risks to reduce their losses. This explains why the status quo often wins over change. Although there may be a benefit in changing, the risk of losing what you already have is too great.

People will take great risks to minimize their pain/losses yet play it safe when the option is to increase their pleasure/gains. When your organization's change plans are utopian visions of a grandiose future, your employees move to the far end of the performance curve: high motivation, low performance. They become cynical about success and feel as though you are not addressing their current pains and frustrations. Instead, fix immediate problems first, then move on to more strategic visions.

The Bottom Line

To create a pervasive culture of innovation, you must first create an environment of performance and motivation. Achieving this is often, paradoxically, the result of less, not greater, effort. Although goals and performance targets are useful tools, they can also have a detrimental impact on results. When people are too future-fixated, their creativity and overall performance diminish. Find the sweet spot of optimal performance, and you will undoubtedly see an increase in employee productivity, creativity, and satisfaction - all with less effort.

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Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Open Innovation Side Effects

by Stefan Lindegaard

Open Innovation Side EffectsOpen innovation will not only lead to new ways of making innovation happen. Innovation leaders and their executives will also experience side effects. I think most of these effects will be positive, but some will be mixed or perhaps even negative.

As innovation leaders and their executives implement open innovation practices, they can just as well start figuring out how to deal with side effects of open innovation such as described below:
  • Open innovation is very much about managing change. If a company can handle the change process related to implementing open innovation, then they have learned valuable lessons that can be used in change management situations. In the current and future business climate, I think everyone should appreciate working in an organization that is agile and prepared for changes.

  • Often, the biggest enemy of innovation is the company itself as the company begin to focus more on its needs than the needs of the market. When you begin to innovate with partners, you will see that these partners either focus on their own needs - and then innovation will definitely fail - or you will see that they come together and funnel their resources towards a market need. If the latter happens, then you have a great chance to succeed with innovation. Pressure from external partners can shift awareness from internal needs to market needs and this move can be helpful beyond the innovation process.

  • Open innovation can bring along new organizational structures. As open innovation becomes the way to innovate, the functional/divisional or matrix organizational structures as we know today will change - or perhaps even break down. I am not sure what will be next...

  • Open innovation will be one of the key drivers in bringing in new types of communication tools into the organization. Think LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Once the initial resistance has been defeated, this can benefit many business functions.

  • Customers are one of the first places to look for external input. Although, there are dangers involved in listening to customers when it comes to innovation, the increased focus on customers can lead to better relationships with them. This can change the role of sales and marketing units as they need to get even more involved in innovation.

  • At a recent open innovation conference, Cisco said that they are trying to move from a culture of competition to a culture of shared goals. This was by large driven by a desire to make innovation happen with external partners. There is much talk on changing the not-invented-here culture, but perhaps open innovation will drive even more corporate culture change.

  • As you work with external partners, you are exposed to other ways of getting things done. You bring diversed thinking into the organization. This can make you consider whether your current practices are good enough, whether you have to adjust these or perhaps even develop new next practices for your organization. An example: You get new perspectives on collaboration. Perhaps this can inspire to better interaction and collaboration between business units.

  • Overall creativity as well as overall complexity increase with open innovation. The increased number of actors provides new ways for people to be creative. This can also increase the level of complexity, which is also driven by fact that the organization is no longer itself in control.

Let me know what you think of this and please share your own views.

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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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Monday, February 22, 2010

Innovation From the Inside Out

by Mitch Ditkoff

Innovation From the Inside OutThese days, almost all of my clients are talking about the need to establish a culture of innovation.

Some, I'm happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action.

Still, the challenge remains the same for them as it does thousands of other forward-thinking companies - and that is, to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out - to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.

In today's process-driven, OD-centric, Six-Sigma savvy organization, the tendency is to focus on systems as opposed to people - as if systems were sufficient to guarantee change.

Guess what? Systems are not sufficient to guarantee change. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Systems die. Instinct remains."

This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to establish a culture of innovation. They shouldn't.

But systems and structures all too often become the Holy Grail - much in the same way that Six Sigma has become the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, when the addiction to systems and structures rules the day, an organization's quest for a culture of innovation degenerates into nothing much more than a cult of innovation.

Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation begins. On the inside.

The organization's role - just like the individual manager's role - is to get out of the way. And while this "getting out of the way" will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer.

They are the context, not the content.

They are the husk, not kernel.

They are the menu, not the meal.

Ultimately, organizations are faced with the same challenge that religions are faced with. Religious leaders may speak passionately about the virtues their congregation needs to be living by, but sermons only name the challenge and remind people to experience something - they don't necessarily change behavior.

Change comes from within the heart and mind of each individual. It cannot be legislated or evangelized into reality.

What's needed in organizations who aspire to a culture of innovation, is an inner change. People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate - and when they experience this "something," they will be self-sustaining.

They will think about their projects in the shower, in their car, and in their dreams. They will need very little "management" from the outside. Inside out will rule the day - not outside in. Intrinsic motivation will flourish.

People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. Open Space Technology is a good metaphor for this. When people are inspired, share a common, compelling goal and have the time and space to collaborate, the results become self-organizing.

You can create all the reward systems you want. You can reinvent your workspace until you're blue in the face. You can license the latest and greatest idea management tool, but unless each person in your organization OWNS the need to innovate and finds a way to tap into their own INNATE BRILLIANCE, all you'll end up with is a mixed bag of systems, processes, and protocols - the husk, not the kernel - the innovation flotsam and jetsam that the next administration or next CEO or next key stakeholder will mock, reject or change at the drop of a hat if the ROI doesn't show up in the next 20 minutes.

You want culture change? You want a culture of innovation?

Great. Then find a way to help each and every person in your organization come from the inside out. Deeply consider how you can awaken, nurture, and develop the primal need all people have to create something extraordinary.

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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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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Will Cadbury give Kraft indigestion?

by Steve McKee

Will Cadbury give Kraft indigestion?After months of intrigue, Kraft finally made a successful bid for venerable British candy maker Cadbury, leaving archrival Hershey's on the sidelines.

Kraft management predicts that the $50 billion combined company will be able to save $675 million over three years, but that's not the primary reason for the merger. It's all about global distribution and access to developing markets. Cadbury has it, Kraft wants it. Makes sense on paper.

Most mergers do make sense on paper, yet many become spectacular failures. The reason? A lack of appreciation for just how difficult it is to integrate not only global operations, but two proud and independent workforces.

Kraft is going to face this problem in spades with Cadbury. Todd Stitzer, Cadbury's CEO, said that Hershey's would have been a better cultural and operational fit. The company's Chairman, Roger Carr, took it a step further by saying Kraft is "an unfocused conglomerate" with "unappealing categories" and management that "underdelivers." Carr went on to say, "There is no strategic, operational, managerial or financial reason" for the merger.

Sure, Carr's statement may have been a bit of strategic bluster to raise the value of the offer (which he succeeded in doing), but it sounds pretty categorical to me. And it was telling that not a single Cadbury executive was present on the conference call with analysts to discuss the deal. Hmm.

Kraft estimates it will take $1.3 billion to "integrate Cadbury." I'm not sure exactly what that means or who came up with the number, but I don't know how anybody could forecast the costs associated with the fear, resentment and internal jockeying with which Kraft and Cadbury managers and employees are now having to deal. The fact that Britons consider Cadbury a national treasure that has been overrun by ugly Americans sure won't help.

Let's hope Kraft doesn't end up with a stomachache.

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Steve McKeeSteve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of "When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You're Stuck, and What To Do About It." Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at http://twitter.com/whengrowthstall.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Innovation? - Just Do It

by Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation? - Just Do ItI'm constantly amazed by all the talk about innovation that I hear within many organizations, and how little real action is taken. It's time, my friends, to gird up your loins and take action. Let's borrow the motto from Nike and decide to "Just Do It."

If you are waiting for the sign from above (by that I mean your executive management) that you may now go and be innovative, stop waiting. Even if the sign comes, it will be so watered down and so filled with misdirection and uncertainty that you wouldn't act on it anyway. Act now, even in small ways to develop innovation activities and skills, so that you can then build on those activities and flesh them into new ideas, and new products and services.

When I say this to many mid and senior level folks I talk to, they want to know: what can I do to make a difference? There are a host of small actions you can take to start innovating, and as you do you'll build credibility and will attract others who are interested and want to work with you. If you never start, you'll never build the community or team you need to succeed.

Here are just a few things that are very easy to do, and very inexpensive to do, that just about anyone in any firm can do to add value and start innovating. Once you do these things you'll build your credibility and get to do even more.
  1. Document trends and provide your sense of what they'll mean for your business in the near future. Yes, I know this isn't your job, but as it turns out it's not anyone's job in most businesses but everyone needs this synthesis. A well organized consolidation of trends, transitioned into a document that provides shape and clarity to a potential future outcome, is helpful to any organization. And, since no one else is doing it, you are now the expert. If someone disagrees, then you've attracted a compatriot who can work with you to provide a counterpoint. All innovation starts from recognizing an opportunity, issue or threat before others do. Trend spotting and synthesis can get your team there first.

  2. Observe your customers. Go read the complaint letters. Read what people are writing about you online on Facebook or Twitter, or other blogs. Go watch your customers use your products. Become a customer of your products or services. Write down what you like, and don't like, about your products. This is free Voice of the Customer and Ethnography. As you do this you'll gain insights into unmet unarticulated needs, which are also a great opportunity for innovation.

  3. Use brainstorming and other idea generation tools as frequently as possible, and use them in the right situations and contexts. Rather than pull a rarely used tool out of the toolbox ocassionally, use the tools regularly and effectively. In that way, idea generation doesn't seem so artificial, but a natural part of doing business. And since you're doing it regularly, you learn more about how to do it well.

  4. Read the best books about innovation, to learn more about the best practices and tools, so when there are opportunities for innovation, you can recommend the appropriate tools and techniques. Learn to be a good facilitator, and understand the rules and techniques for idea generation. As your skills grow, you'll be asked to lead idea sessions for other teams.

There's always something you can do, and starting now is much better than starting when you finally get the OK. In many firms, the OK may never happen. Create a small innovation capability and generate ideas about the future, new product and service ideas, and help other teams generate ideas. You'll attract others who have similar needs and interests and gain incredible credibility. Eventually you'll be the go-to person for innovation. Don't laugh, I've been in at least two organizations where the head of innovation was simply the person who started doing innovation and was eventually recognized as the expert.

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Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Realistic Impossibilities

by Kathy Robison

Realistic ImpossibilitiesBeing on the wrong end of the continuum between realistic and impossible is what plagues many of today's large multi-national corporations. The fear of failure by employees who are only partially engaged and don't entirely feel like valued members of the team, will always translate into goals and ideas that are mediocre and achievable and never ones that are innovative or impossible. In the 21st century, which is fraught with global economic adjustments, global-interdependence, developed world saturation, and a consumer base that is rapidly changing, creating the impossible is the only way to break away from the competition, ensure success and create a meaningful impact on the world.

Unfortunately most large companies live in the land of the realistic. It has permeated their business model, their culture, and the expectations of their customers. Many of these companies are starting to realize that creativity, thinking differently, and innovation are the keys to success in the future, but they feel stuck in how to achieve such goals. Hopefully some will view them as impossible and find the courage to achieve them anyway. You see, if you want to create a culture that reaches for the impossible, despite the odds, it must begin at the top and it often begins with an updated and innovative business model.

Designing an innovative and exciting business model with impossible goals is often a much easier and less expensive way to creating a culture of creativity and innovation that trying to dictate it. Processes, procedures, and changes in organizational structure can be dictated; innovation and creative thinking must be experienced and nurtured. The act of dictating, making rules, and imposing your will on others are the very things that have turned off our creativity, thinking, and innovative traits in the past. It was OK in the last century where the goals were to build, duplicate, and be efficient. The difference now is that we are moving from a world of industrialization and knowledge to one of conceptualization and connection.

Yes, there will be impediments and unforeseen circumstances that get in the way of creating the impossible, but they must be viewed as learning and growth opportunities. And, yes, there is always the possibility of failure, but failure is not altogether a bad thing. We must learn to accept failure as a part of the process of success. Unfortunately, many corporate cultures are so anti-failure that they no longer reach for anything exciting, tantalizing, or remotely interesting, which are the very things that improve productivity, reduce turnover, attract talent and create cultures that regularly innovate.

The disillusionment with big business and the realization that job security was really an illusion anyway is the fuel for new competition that will come charging out of the gates with all of these new attributes in tact. During the next 50 years, we will see some of the biggest companies in the world come crumbling down as well as the birth of some of the greatest companies in the world. It will be an interesting game to watch and fascinating to see the rules of play take a completely new direction. Here are a few of my favorite new perspective one-liners to start 2010:

  • Do as Wayne Gretzky and "Skate to where the puck will be"

  • Have the capacity to collaborate with the most unlikely of players

  • Create something larger than the products you sell

  • Lead with the tenacity of an underdog

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

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Creating Conditions for an Innovation Culture

by Jeffrey Phillips

Hothouse of Innovation CultureI've been thinking a lot lately about "creating a culture of innovation", which is what a lot of firms suggest they want to do. Of course this is a very lofty goal. Changing a corporate culture doesn't happen easily, and it certainly doesn't happen overnight. Yet clearly one of the most significant barriers to innovation is the entrenched culture of effectiveness and efficiency, of risk-avoidance and following rather than leading.

So, that led me to think about when teams and groups within an organization can be innovative, and what the conditions were when that happened. We regularly lead teams on trend spotting and scenario planning exercises that create some really radical future scenarios, with little resistance, and often lead ideation and brainstorming programs that achieve a large number of disruptive or radical ideas. These small programs demonstrate that innovation can happen in any organization under certain conditions. Let's first look at what makes these small programs effective.

We find that we can be most effective with these discovery and idea generation programs when we set very clear expectations about our goals and prepare the team carefully for the work, setting out specific rules and expectations. Typically when we go into the work, we'll close the door and tell the team that anything that happens in the room is fair game, and open for discussion, and we aren't bound by the "normal" rules. This helps get the team out of the "day to day" thinking and encourage their creative thinking. They know that no one will be allowed to ridicule an idea or submit challenges that will block the consideration of an idea. For those few moments or days, we have created a "micro-climate" for innovation, probably akin to a hothouse in the wintertime.

So, if we can create some assorted micro-climates where teams can spot opportunities and emerging trends, and effectively generate ideas, can we build on the "micro-climate" concept to create more areas where conditions are ripe for innovation? Using the flower analogy, can we move the ideas from one hothouse to another, gradually exposing the ideas to the elements and improving the chances for survival, while we try to change the conditions of the organization at large (change the cultural attitudes to innovation)?

I'd like to suggest the first step may be to create a number of "micro-climates" - safe locations to generate, develop and evaluate ideas that exist specifically to give ideas the necessary environments to grow. Some firms use a designated space for innovation. Perhaps the best way to change the culture is to start small, with several micro-climates that establish conditions for innovation and allow the process to prove its worth.

Eventually the idea needs to be exposed to the conditions, and planted where it will bear fruit. That is, it must make a transition from an interesting idea to a new product or service, and that means it must work its way through the product or service development process. There are two considerations here: either the existing product or service development process must be adjusted to accept and manage new, possibly more disruptive and fragile concepts, or new product and service development models must be developed for more radical ideas. To carry the plant analogy further, any farmer worth his salt will cover plants in the field that are susceptible to a killing frost or unexpected conditions. So, too, must an organization provide more cover and care for a radical idea as it moves through a traditional product development process.

The point here is that too many times we talk about "changing the culture" and immediately reject the concept, since it is such a Herculean task. Perhaps what we should do is establish small teams and locations where the conditions are beneficial to innovation - small micro-climates where ideas can succeed, and string them together. Once we've demonstrated success, we won't have to worry about changing the culture, because slowly the organization will recognize success and begin to adapt to the best concepts that the conditions in the micro-climates offer them.

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Paradox of Innovation from 30,000 Feet

It's About the Journey, Not the Destination

by Robert F. Brands

Innovation from 30,000 feetIn the C-suites of corporate America, innovation has become a mandate. Executives - from CEOs to marketing officers - believe that to innovate is to embrace the Holy Grail of 21st Century business.

But is innovation alone the answer? Is the end - innovation - capable of surviving solely as a mandate?

Or is innovation a process, journey that seeks a destination refined and polished along the way? "Total Innovation" is a sojourn that mandates a total approach philosophy.

However, to create the Culture, foster Ideation and sustain a focus on thoughtful New Product Development, innovation requires a complex combination of and continued adherence to imperatives that must be introduced, embraced and nurtured. Innovation imperatives must start at the top, the CEO. They must be written into the Mission Statements; "Innovation" must have the backing in the strategic plan.

To thrive, Innovation must have the support of long-term growth objectives and capital support. Beyond support, Innovation must gain Inspiration from leadership, who will create and foster a Culture of innovation and motivate the organization. Leadership must acknowledge the role of Risk, and understand the possibility and benefits of failure.

For without such inspiration and continued communication, Innovation will not survive. It will become little more than a once-promising concept left to wither on the vine of fanciful corporate initiatives that never quite took root.

Therein lies the paradox of innovation. Companies cannot succeed without innovation. Yet few executives understand how to introduce, nurture, or capitalize on the promise of innovation within the organization.

Planned well, the Imperative of Innovation can impact the New Product Development process. It can encourage fertile Ideation, welcoming input from associates to customers and users alike. It feeds the machine, providing methods of collecting, vetting, ranking and considering the Next Big Idea or future new products or processes.

The Innovation Imperative insists on Ownership and Accountability. It requires a Champions - and Chief Innovation Officer, if you will - be named to oversee teams Trained, coached and mentored to shepherd projects through the system, all the while adhering to each Imperative.

The Imperative requires Observation and Measurement of performance and results to ensure they deliver Net Result and Reward, and that they meet or remain focused upon an established set of objectives - and those involved are recognized accordingly.

Ultimately, innovation done well leads to Value Creation - for the organization, its stake holders and customers.

Robert F BrandsRobert F. Brands is President and founder of Brands & Company, LLC. Innovation Coach Robert Brands has launched a new site - www.RobertsRulesOfInnovation.com - to complement his upcoming book.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Does your Innovation have a story?

by Jeffrey Phillips

Beleive MeImagine if you will, somewhere in the distant recesses of our existence, a group of cavemen huddled around a fire. The wiseman of the group gathers the tribe around the fire and regales them with stories of their ancestors - how they fought the neighboring tribes, how they found the food necessary to survive. The shaman passes on the wisdom of the tribe, and teaches in the process.

Stories are the best way to learn, and the best way to communicate. For some reason, we've lost the sense of story in business. Rather than use stories we opt for hard and fast "facts" that often miss the root causes or issues. There's no story telling class in an MBA program, yet most of the best leaders understand the importance of storytelling, and they lead others by telling and retelling stories. Some of those stories are myths, meant to reinforce the culture. Some of those stories are true, meant to teach and instruct.

I've just had the opportunity to read Michael Margolis' new book "Believe Me", which he calls a "storytelling manifesto for change makers and innovators". It is a small, slim book with a lot of good ideas about why story matters and how to reclaim it.

What strikes me about stories in regard to innovation is how little emphasis we place on a story or a narrative. Too often an innovation project is created, but there's no linkage to past work or existing issues. The project seems to exist outside of the framework of the business, and doesn't have a strong linkage or narrative to drive it. Margolis identifies 15 storytelling axioms and notes that storytelling is especially important to innovators. There are a few axioms I'd like to point out:
  1. If you want to learn about a culture, listen to its stories. If you want to change a culture, change the stories. I've found that culture is always a barrier to innovation, so changing a culture is important when innovating. Identifying the stories and changing the stories will make innovation more acceptable.

  2. The power of a story grows exponentially as more people accept your story as the truth. This axiom played out for us on an innovation project, when we introduced qualitative research to a firm that had not used ethnography successfully before. Our story about our findings and the value of our findings spread through word of mouth and created an entirely new perspective on the use of ethnography.

  3. Storytelling is like fortune-telling. The act of choosing a certain story determines the probability of future outcomes. If we choose a story line that we are a simple, safe, slow moving company then that informs the culture and defines who and what we are. If we choose a story line that defines our organization as a risk taking, insightful innovator, that's what we can become. Your story drives your results.

As an innovator, I'd like to start with the story, which will drive the culture to adapt to a new view of itself, and anchor the work within a narrative that we can spread through word of mouth to others. There's a need for a formal communication network, but powerful stories, repeated throughout the organization, do far more to get people on board.

Check out Michael's new book and think about what your story says about your organization, and how you can use story to your advantage.

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Controlling Innovation

by Jeffrey Phillips

Controlling InnovationI guess I'll never fully understand the depth of concern that many management teams have around command and control, especially in an era of constant change. It seems that the more demands are placed on an organization to create new products and adapt to environmental change, the more resistance to that change is created and encouraged at mid and senior management levels. I understand that what's "known" is comfortable and what's unknown and new is uncomfortable, but at some point every firm has to create some new products or services or it will simply atrophy.

Recently I've witnessed what I'll call "innovation in a bottle". That is, a relatively successful innovation effort that the management team approved and blessed spawned interest in innovation across the organization. People in other business units and geographies wanted to know more, and learn more, about innovation and the successful work that was done. We on the project team viewed this as a good thing - a successful innovation effort being recognized as such. It was clear that many people wanted to understand the tools and process, and implement that kind of thinking in their lines of business.

Except that the management team viewed all of that energy and excitement with concern. Why was everyone so excited? Why was everyone so interested in innovation? Yes, the recently completed project had created very valuable insights and compelling new products and services, but the intent was for that group only. I think, in hindsight, that the management team intended not for a widespread innovation effort for the firm, but a more narrowly targeted new product discovery effort for one line of business. When that effort succeeded, and other lines of business wanted to learn more and duplicate the effort, the genie was at risk of leaving the bottle, and that caused concern for the management team. After all, if several lines of business started innovating, the amount of change in the business could be dramatic.

I don't think most firms can be successful keeping innovation in a bottle - limiting it to very specific product lines or geographies. If the innovation work is done well, it will produce great results and those results will be noticed. Leaders in other organizations will want to copy the work and develop new products and services for their customers. Successful innovation is contagious, and to think the management team can limit innovation is part and parcel with command and control thinking. Yes, an executive team can control innovation, by limiting resources and stopping projects, but once the value of the methods and tools are seen, it will be hard to keep that lightning in a bottle. And probably counterproductive to do it as well.

Here's the takeaway: If your firm seeks innovation and is willing to commit to do it well, expect that with any successful effort that more and more people within the firm will want to learn more and duplicate the work in their own departments. This should be a good thing, but can be viewed negatively by an executive team worried about control. What they don't recognize is how fast the world is changing and how great the demand is for new products and services. I don't think you can keep innovation in a bottle, and I doubt it's a good idea to try.

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Building an Innovation Engine in China

by Stefan Lindegaard

Chinese InnovationI recently made another trip to China. My purpose was to meet with innovation leaders in order to build further on my understanding of the Chinese innovation community and thus on my global perspectives on innovation.

I had a couple of meetings and I did an improvised session at a company. Having met about 15 people and having spent 5 days in Beijing, I have to say that my expectations of what will happen in China grew even higher. The reason for this is the innovation people of China.

They are hungry, bright and very eager to learn. Yes, they still have a lot to learn. And many of them do not seem to have the creative mindset and the ability to think in a more holistic way which I believe is necessary in order to make innovation happen. These are tough things to learn and many Chinese people will never get this.

Despite such significant issues, I still believe that Chinese people will be major contributors to innovation in the coming years. You can get a long way by being hungry, bright and eager to learn. In order to tap into this resource, China-based companies - whether Chinese or multi-nationals - must continue to provide the framework for these people to grow. This actually brings us back to what it takes for any company to build an innovative culture including:

Have a strategy for innovation. I have said this many times before. You need to develop an innovation strategy that sets the direction and this strategy must be aligned with the overall corporate strategy.

Focus on people before processes and ideas. People drive innovation. Your first thing to do is to identify and develop the people who can make innovation happen. Upon this, you need processes that match these people with the right ideas and provide a way to turn the ideas into revenues.

Use a TBX(O) approach. Nothing happens without top management (T) just as well as nothing happens without the employees (B). Middle managers (X) are a great obstacle towards innovation so you need to work around this. Today, we also need to include outsiders (O) in our innovation process. More about TBX(O) here.

On top of this, China-based companies - as well as many Western-based companies - also need to deal with their authority driven system. I still remember a visit to Alibaba three years ago. Alibaba, founded by Jack Ma in 1999, is among other things the world's largest online B2B marketplace.

We met with a group of engineers and we asked how they dealt with innovation. No answer. We asked again and this time we got a short answer - "Jack knows." My point here is that innovation is a team-sport where everyone has an opportunity to contribute; not a game played by lone geniuses.

I will visit China again early 2010 hosting a Next Stop: Open Innovation session. I really look forward to work further with these interesting Chinese people on developing their innovation mindset and skills.

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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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Developing an Innovation Culture (the TBX approach)

by Stefan Lindegaard

TBX ApproachHaving been involved in several efforts on developing the innovation culture within companies, I have learned that you need to work with three organizational approaches.

I call this the TBX approach:

T (Top Down)
  • Get the executives onboard and make them personally committed to the innovation activities. Without executive support, no change occurs.

B (Bottom Up)
  • Value creation begins with people, one by one, team by team. Nothing happens unless you get the employees engaged and involved. Take ideas, feedback and other input from employees seriously. If ideas just seem to run down a sinkhole and never to re-emerge or if leaders are not able to commit resources to any ideas, you will lose the trust of the employees.

X (Across)
  • The biggest challenges will come from the middle managers placed across the organization. A key reason is that middle managers have a narrow focus on their own profit and loss responsibility. They do not see the full picture and thus will not give up resources that do not benefit them in the short run although it is the right thing for the company in the long run. Thus, if not dealt with appropriately and effectively, they can bring innovation to a grinding halt.

The T and B are quite obvious, but try to step back and think for a while on middle managers and the impact they have had on innovation projects you have worked on. They are much more influential than you might think of and you need to find ways of getting around these people.

You can get results through efficient stakeholder management but often you need also to change they way these people are incentivised. Such changes will only happen if you already have the T in place...

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, September 29, 2009

Managing Innovation is about Managing Change

by Braden Kelley

Innovation is ChangeInnovation is about change. Companies that successfully innovate in a repeatable fashion have one thing in common - they are good at managing change. Now, change comes from many sources, but when it comes to innovation, the main sources are incremental innovation and disruptive innovation.

The small changes from incremental innovation often come from the realm of implementation, so the organization, customers, and other stakeholders can generally adapt. However, the large changes generated by disruptive innovation, often come from the imagination, and so these leaps forward for the business often disrupt not only the market but the internal workings of the organization as well - they also require a lot of explanation.

The change injected into organizations by innovation ebbs and flows across the whole organization's ecosystem:

Innovation is Change
Let's explore the change categories visualized in this framework using the Apple iPod as an example:

Changes for customers - Any disruptive innovation requires a company to imagine for the customer something they can then imagine for themselves. Go too far past your customers' ability to imagine how the new product or service solves a real problem in their lives, and your adoption will languish.
  • Customers had to try and imagine Apple as more than a computer hardware manufacturer, and begin to see them as a company to trust for reliable consumer electronics. They also had to imagine what it might mean to download music digitally (without any physical media).

Changes for employees - Disruptive innovations often require employees do things in a new way, and that can be uncomfortable, even if it is only your employees imagining what you are going to ask them to help your customers imagine.
  • Employees had to acquire lots of new knowledge and skills. Apple support employees had to learn to support a different, less-technical customer. Other employees had to learn how to effectively build partnerships in the music industry.

Changes for suppliers - Innovations that disrupt the status quo may require suppliers to work with you in new ways. Some disruptive innovations may require suppliers to make drastic changes akin to those they had to make to support just-in-time manufacturing.
  • Apple had to work with suppliers to source components at the higher volumes and shorter lead times required for success in consumer electronics. This meant finding some new suppliers who could handle the new volumes and market requirements.

Changes in distribution - Often big innovations disrupt whole distribution channels and this can cause challenges for incumbent organizations (think Compaq and big box retailers versus Dell Direct).
  • Going into consumer electronics meant that Apple had to build relationships with the big box stores including people like Target, Wal-mart, and Costco. They also had to build a completely new distribution system - iTunes - for distributing digital music.

Changes in marketing - New products and services (especially disruptive ones), can require marketing to find and build relationships with completely different types of customers and/or require marketing to speak to customers in a different way or to reach them through different channels.
  • Marketing had to begin moving the brand from computing to lifestyle, including changing the company name from 'Apple Computer' to 'Apple' in 2007.
  • Marketing also had to learn how to connect with mass market consumers, and help them imagine how this new hardware/software combination would enhance their life - no small task.

Changes in operations - In addition to changes in the supply chain, the organization may have to adapt to disruptive innovations by hiring different types of employees, re-training existing employees, accounting for revenue in a different way, or going about production in a new way.
  • The Apple iPod was an experience sell, which highlighted the fact that Apple didn't really have a place where they could help customers experience their products. This led to the opening of Apple retail stores. Apple's finance and operations had to adapt to the change from low volume, high price items to high volume, low price items. Apple also had to build out a resource-intensive online operation that didn't exist before (lots of IT investment).

Push Pull RelationshipNote that the chart has arrows going in both directions, but not simultaneously. There is a push-pull relationship. At the beginning of the innovation process the satellites influence what the innovation will look like (new production capabilities, new suppliers, ideas from partners/suppliers, component innovations, new marketing methods, etc.). But as the innovation goes into final commercialization, the direction of the change becomes outwardly focused.

You can see that as an organization is imagining how to take their creative idea and transform it into a valuable innovation in the marketplace, they also should be imagining all of the changes that are going to be required and how they will implement them. This is no small feat, but with proper planning, organizational learning, and adaptation over time, any organization can improve its ability to cope with and even anticipate the change necessary to implement its next disruptive innovation.

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, September 28, 2009

Cooking Up Some Innovation

by Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation in the Kitchen?I've been thinking for a while about the perfect physical space for innovation. When we work with our clients we often are asked to help design a physical space for the team to work in. This should be a space that is open, colorful, inviting and really different from the regular work environment. The space needs to remind the people working there that when the teams are innovating, they need to be thinking differently than they do when in their day jobs. In a perfect world, there would not be such a separation of thinking, but until everyone is a perfect innovator, we'll have to settle for great thinking spaces.

The spaces we've worked on and in are usually spare space the firm can afford to reconfigure, and are usually the typical Class A space, with bare gray walls and industrial strength carpet. Sometimes the walls have been painted interesting colors or someone has put posters or other graphics up on the wall. Typically the space is fairly open, to allow a lot of movement, with smaller breakout areas for team work. Most of these physical spaces are a good first step, but don't really break out of the usual workspace - gray walls, cubicles, boring industrial feel.

After giving this some thought, I'm going to propose the best arrangement for an innovation space - a kitchen. Think about a kitchen and its properties. A kitchen is a place where you create delicious (hopefully) food from a wide range of ingredients following a methodology (recipes) and experimenting with new additives or flavors. Cooking is a good metaphor for innovation, because many of us follow a recipe to some extent, but we also experiment with different spices, flavorings or cooking styles. Experimentation is important, and having a number of different ingredients at hand is very valuable.

Kitchen CreativityAlso, at any party, where do people end up? In the kitchen, standing around, talking about the events of the day. A kitchen, because there's food and drink available, is inviting. People tend to remain there, talking about the issues of the day. From an innovation perspective, that's valuable. A wide range of people mixing together, exchanging ideas is a good building block for innovation. Additionally, kitchens are much less formal than a living room or sitting room, and invite people to interact. The fact that there are few comfy chairs in a kitchen encourages people to mill around. This ensures an exchange of ideas.

A kitchen also has all sorts of appliances, tools and utensils. These are the things that help prepare, mix and bake/broil/fry the food. Likewise, innovators need tools and techniques at hand in order to do their work effectively.

Another reason a kitchen, or some semblance of a kitchen would be an excellent jumping off point for an innovation space is because it would be so different, so unique from the rest of the working environment. A kitchen would be totally unexpected and offer people a very different environment in which to innovate, yet one that is potentially familiar and comfortable.

I can't wait to test this out - I think a kitchen, surrounded by some work areas or breakout areas and white boards, would offer a team a chance to "cook up" (sorry, couldn't resist) a whole range of new ideas. Clearly there needs to be some more traditional working space as well, but a kitchen, stocked not just with cooking utensils but tools for ideation, idea development and prototyping would form a unique site, ready for people to innovate. You could even staff the innovation site with personnel who are innovation coaches would could offer lessons on the methodologies, the tools and the practice of innovation, who could act as "executive chefs".

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Which comes first? - Innovation success or culture?

by Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation success or cultureMany strategic challenges have a "chicken or egg" quandary. In the case of the chicke and the egg, which comes first? Clearly you can't have a chicken if the chicken didn't come from an egg. But you can't have an egg if it didn't come from a chicken. Quite a conundrum. Ranks up there with Schrodinger's cat and other notable thought experiments.

The chicken and egg question has parallels in innovation, especially when firms consider how to get started. The dilemma the firms face is: do we work on creating an innovation culture before attempting innovation, or do we start with smaller, more tactical innovation activities that will allow us to build up innovation knowledge and experience that can be transferred to the culture? Here's a couple of things to ponder while considering the tradeoffs.

First, anyone, anywhere can brainstorm or generate ideas. That does not make them "innovative" and one brainstorm is not necessarily repeatable or sustainable. However, that may be the best first step for many firms, only comfortable with small, trial steps. However, what many firms find once they've generated ideas is that there is no sustaining process or procedure for managing ideas, and the "day job" is more compelling. Cultural roadblocks often stymie further pursuit of ideas.

Second, building a culture is hard, but changing a culture is very difficult. In any existing firm, there are norms and expectations that have been built over time and reinforced in the way people work and how they are compensated. Changing a firm's culture does not happen overnight, and many executives recognize this. So, there's yet another rationale for trying a "quick and dirty" innovation project rather than trying to implement longer term change.

Third, building a culture of innovation requires a vision. You can't simply wave a wand and expect the culture to change - it can change, but it must change based on some shared concepts and vision. Executives have to define a very clear rationale for the change and present the end state. This requires commitment and good communication skills over a long period of time. Again, since we manage today with a stopwatch rather than a calendar, time is of the essence, and quick wins are preferred to methodical changes.

innovation roadblockSo, in many cases we are left with two alternatives, neither of which seem to have positive outcomes. On one hand a firm can innovate with small projects and programs and attempt to overcome cultural issues as they arise. Often they will find that the culture doesn't reward people who take risks and who propose programs that are different from the status quo. On the other hand, a firm can start working on the culture and begin changing the expectations before launching innovation programs, but this is time consuming and most executives don't have the patience for such efforts.

Probably the best approach is to run the changes in parallel. Start working on cultural change while enacting a series of small innovation programs. Build on the successes and use any failures as opportunities to reinforce the cultural change. Expect that any effort to change the culture will take several years. However, if you can successfully influence the culture, the innovation possibilities are incredible. Culture is the biggest roadblock to innovation, but once overcome, it can be the stimulus and propulsion for innovation.

In the case of innovation activities versus innovation culture, don't think of these as tradeoffs but as activities that should, probably must, be done simultaneously if you want to build a long term, successful innovation capability.

Jeffrey PhillipsJeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of "Make us more Innovative", and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Save the World - One Action at a Time

Saving water is going to become ever more important as time goes on. If you're easily offended, skip this one, but it's really pretty harmless and the ad campaign referenced is targeted at children.

by Kevin Roberts

A great ad is one that can be understood across borders without the need for subtitles or translation. That's the case with the TVC above created by F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi for the Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlântica. The message here couldn't be any more clear.

SOS Mata Atlântica says that if a household avoids just one flush a day, it can save up to 4,380 litres (1,157 gallons) of water annually. It's the little ways we can make a difference each day. Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S, focuses on the impact of our collective "nano-practices" - the hundreds and thousands of tiny things you do each day that together make up your lifestyle. In his 'Birth of Blue' speech last year, he explained the idea: "How you tie your shoes, the type of shoes you wear, your choice of socks, how you fold your socks, and whether you wear your shoes indoors. Instead of trying to change the big things about someone's identity...we start by finding daily or recurring practices that can express his or her values." We all could cut down on our water consumption every day. It might be peeing in the shower, taking a shorter shower, or waiting a day to do a load of laundry. One thing can add up.

The other reason this TVC has had such a big response is the way it communicates with us. Sure, the environment is an important and serious topic, but preaching doom and gloom is no way to save the world. Instead of scare tactics and depressing statistics, this ad goes for humor, and there's no better spokesperson for tomorrow than kids. They can diffuse any situation. The campaign includes posters, a television film and a website which features a frog imploring us to pee in the shower, all to generate awareness about water wastage.

Saving the planet turns out to be easier than expected. Listen to the children and xixi no banho!

Kevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making the Change to "Proudly Found Elsewhere"

Interview - Chris Thoen - P&G

I had the opportunity to interview Chris Thoen, Director Innovation & Knowledge Management at P&G about the challenges of shifting an organization as big as P&G from closed innovation to open innovation, and the P&G Connect + Develop program. Dr. Thoen is a twenty year P&G veteran who started his career as a research scientist in the Fabric & Home Care division and now heads up the Global Open Innovation Office, also known as Connect + Develop.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. When it comes to open innovation, what is the biggest challenge that you see organizations facing?

For P&G specifically, changing the culture was a big challenge. Shifting from inventing everything internally, and owning all the IP to an open culture, with shared risks and rewards was a huge leap. You find that not everyone embraces open innovation at the same speed, or to the same degree. It's a journey, and while P&G has come a long way, there is still a lot to do.

2. What was the biggest barrier P&G had to overcome in the move from closed innovation to open innovation?

It's aligned with that same theme - the internal culture change. P&G has incredibly talented employees - employees who are proud of the work they do. Moving from "only invented at P&G" to "proudly found elsewhere" required a change in mindset. It was important that employees realized that Connect + Develop was not another name for downsizing and outsourcing jobs but instead, a strategy to ensure sustained business growth for the Company. Leveraging open innovation as a way to increase capacity for our internal researchers makes sense. We recognized that we should concentrate on what we do really well and look to partner externally in instances where others can either do better or faster to bring products to market more quickly. And always, always, we have the end in mind...to continue to bring new and improved products to delight consumers.

3. From your experience, what are some of the keys to successfully engaging employees in an open innovation effort?

This is a challenging one, mainly because of the culture change employees will face. When P&G started our journey we didn't have all the answers. But we've learned a lot, and here's a few things I'd share. First and foremost, building rewards and recognition into P&G's career development related to Connect + Develop. Including Connect + Develop in work plans helps to ensure continued adoption of this approach and helps to change the mindset of open innovation as a 'threat' to open innovation as an 'productivity enabler'. Success stories are the best way to highlight the value of open innovation, with increased capacity and capability through collaboration with external innovators and experts. A great example of this is the Sonic toothbrush. P&G was looking at entering sonic toothbrush market. We considered doing it ourselves, but projected 3-5 years before going to market. Instead, we partnered with one of the largest home electric product companies in Japan (cannot name partner due to confidentiality) and went to market in fraction of the time (18 months) and cost. Finally, I'd add that you have to champion the early adopters. Whether it's an individual or a business, you take those who are on-board, passionate, and have embraced open innovation and you make heroes of them to the rest of the business. The more you can publicize success, the more you'll see that others want to be a part of it.

4. Was it difficult to convince partners and suppliers to participate in P&G's open innovation efforts?

Not at all. I think it's important to recognize that this isn't something you communicate like a marketing plan - we don't advertise that we are looking for participants in open innovation. It's a process that begins with networking and building relationships, and grows into productive business transactions that benefit both participants as well as consumers, who get products in market faster at better value. With respect to P&G, the company enjoys a solid reputation and has an internal culture with a purpose and principles to improve consumer lives now and for generations to come. What P&G was not well known for initially was being an open innovation partner. We've worked hard over the past decade to change that perception. We've made great progress and were voted Preferred Innovation Partner this year by marcus evans group (sic), a peer innovation community. But we know we need to do more and we will continue to look for new opportunities to collaborate externally and to become the preferred innovation partner.

5. What are some of the keys to successfully engaging partners and suppliers in an open innovation effort?

Approaching 'partner understanding' in a similar way to consumer understanding. To become the 'partner of choice' requires being outwardly focused to understand partner's needs, concerns, expectations, goals, etc. and finding ways to delight them at the first moment of truth (their initial contact with P&G as a potential partner) and the second moment of truth (during the collaboration). And at the monetary level, ensuring that partnerships are truly a win/win for both sides. We often coach internally and ask the question "Would you sign for either side?" In doing so, we increase the likelihood of repeat partnerships. And we build a solid reputation as a true partner of choice.

6. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

Adaptability to change, entrepreneurial skills, sensible risk taking behaviors. Being able to identify and remove organizational roadblocks to open innovation. Continual questioning of status quo and looking ahead to find new solutions. Actively working internally to drive culture change, while remaining laser focused externally at consumer needs. At the end of the day, the consumer is still the boss.

7. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

More active involvement in real life work settings vs. in the lab. A great example of how we've been working to drive more interaction locally is the Live Well Collaborative with University of Cincinnati. The Collaborative is a non-profit independent structure, with a number of companies and the university, who collaborate on a "fee for service" basis and provide strategic leadership/management. The focus area is Baby Boomer population 50+. Participating companies pose a challenge for a new product/service and the university researchers, professors, and co-op students work against that for a 10 - 14 week period. This give real life business experience, and provides jobs to students and faculty. This is a great example of how university collaboration works really well.

Tell Me More

If you'd like to hear more of what Chris Thoen has to say about the challenges of open innovation, he will be speaking at the Open Innovation Summit, taking place December 2-4, 2009 in Orlando, Florida along with several other open innovation leaders, authors, and consultants. Dr. Thoen's talk is currently titled:

"How To Brand Yourself As A Partner Of Choice And Turn Ideas Into Profits"

September 18, 2009 is the last day for the $400 early bird discount.

Blogging Innovation readers can save an extra $300 by registering using the discount code - NXB458. More than enough to add Workshop B to your innovation experience.

See you there!

Braden 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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