The Blogger’s Hub Mark II – The World Business Forum 09 and Social Media Innovation

5 10 2009

3904269880_4453a1e4a8Thanks to the good people over at HSM, I’ve been invited to take part in the Blogger’s Hub at tomorrow’s World Business Forum – something I’m really quite excited about for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, look at the lineup – where else in the world can you go to and see Bill Clinton, George Lucas and Gary Hamel all on the same agenda? The topics being addressed are equally diverse – ranging from Leadership, to Branding, to  Economics, to a simple “Conversation” (well you didn’t think George Lucas would address the audience on something like “Quantitative Analysis Techniques for the 21st century” did you?).

combined

However, and not to take away from the power of the content itself, one of the main attractions for me this year will be to see how HSM has evolved its’ “Bloggers Hub” concept. Whether or not HSM were the first to embrace Social Media (SM) and the concept of an “alternative press core” as part of its conferences I don’t know – but I think I can safely say that they’re the current leaders when it comes to integrating SM into their conferences. You certainly can’t fault them for lack of commitment to the concept – and it’s reaping some great results from them in terms of market exposure and attendee response.

Regular readers will remember a piece I wrote about the Blogger’s Hub at the World Innovation Forum – also run by HSM – where they first tried out the concept.  Inviting a core group of innovation bloggers, tweeps, and writers of various sorts to their event – they then set up a unique experience with reserved seating, dedicated WiFi channels, powerpoints, press packs, and more for this group. It was a bold statement at the time of HSM’s belief in Social Media – and one that was then rapidly adopted by many of their competitors to varying degrees of success.

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So needless to say – I’m fascinated to see how they’ll push the boundaries again with their second go at it. Already they’ve done far more pre-conference than in the past. Having established an already pretty active hash channel on twitter (#WBF09 in case you want to follow the live tweets on Tuesday and Wednesday), a LinkedIn Group, a Facebook page, and several networking opportunities both before and during the conference specifically for the Blogger’s Hub members – they’ve done an admirable job of embracing what I think are the key components of a successful corporate SM campaign, namely:

1)   Open a channel to your target market and give them a means by which to communicate with each other – through the various linkedin, twitter, and other channels that they’ve created, HSM have provided the potential community with a set of tools to use. More critically, rather than attempt to create proprietary channels; they’ve built mini-channels within already established platforms so as to reduce the barrier to entry to new community members.

2)   Enthuse the community – Membership to the Blogger’s Hub has certain perks: Special invitation-only channels; exclusive networking opportunities; special press packs and media libraries; the specially reserved and equipped area at the conference itself; and more – all contributing to participants feeling “special” and thus more enthusiastic about the entire experience. Just as with any PR – giving a channel exclusivity to content gives it a better chance of being picked up

3)   Take an active role in the community – throughout, HSM has not only used the various channels as a way to put out marketing messages, but crucially, they’ve taken an active part in the online discussions – thus getting adopted by the community not as a sponsor, but as a member – and as a member, credibility and acceptance is much greater.

blogger_hub3Having covered all these points admirably, George Levy and his colleagues at HSM have ensured that come the Wednesday evening close of the event, not only will they have driven a modern day PR campaign that would be the envy of most corporates out there, but they’ve also created an active community that they essentially “own” and are a trusted member of. How many companies active in the SM space can say that? Talk about creating an asset!

Will there be more surprises for us when we get there? I’m willing to bet so – so make sure you track #wbf09 over the next few days and I’ll make sure to tell you all about it as the event unfolds!

More Resources

  • I’ve created an RSS Feed of Blog Posts on the World Business Forum from Blogger’s Hub participants
  • If you’re not an active Twitter user – you can follow all the action from HSM’s dedicated page
  • If you are an active Twitter user – make sure to follow #wbf09 to see the whole thing unfold live
  • Here’s a full list of the Blogger’s Hub Participants so you can follow each individually:

Wall Street Journal | Kelly Evans | @Kelly_Evans
Wall Street Journal | Paul Glader | @PaulGlader
The Huffington Post | Shahien Nasiripour | @huffbusiness
BusinessWeek.com | Reena Jana  | @RJMAC
Reuters | Felix Salmon  | @felixsalmon
Newsweek | Katie Paul  | @newsweek
asmarterplanet.com | Adam Christensen | @smarterplanet
Jossey-Bass on Leadership | Carolyn Carlstroem | @josseybassbiz
mashable.com | Ben Parr | @benparr
billgeorge.org | Zach Clayton | @bill_george
The Big Picture | Barry Ritholtz
Purse Pundit | Jacki Zehner
Execunet | Lauryn Franzoni | @LaurynFranzoni
Execunet | Robyn Greenspan | @Robyngreenspan
Execunet | Joseph McCool
Execunet | Jeffrey Sherman Thompson
1 to 1 Media | Don Peppers | @donpeppers
Path Forward International | Julie Lenzer Kirk | @YourBoot
Path Forward International | Renee Lewis | @chiefcatalyst
Thought Bright Blog | Robert McNeill
Working Knowledge | Andrea Meyer | @AndreaMeyer
Working Knowledge | Dana Meyer | @WorkingKnowledg
Business Boomer | Arabella Santiago | @businessboomer
Information Playground (EMC) | Steve Todd |  @SteveTodd
Social Media Blog Stu | Stuart Miniman | @stu
Insights on Leadership and Employee Engagement | Michael Lee Stallard  | @MichaelStallard
Innoblog | Renee Hopkins | @Renee_Innosight
Business Strategy Innovation Blog | Braden Kelley | @innovate
HSMInspiringIdeas.com | Graciela Gonzalez Biondo | @HSMAmericas
Gizmodo.com | Joanna Stern | @gizmodo
Time Leadership | Jim Estill | @JimEstill
Goodness500.org | Michael Mossoba | @creativemichael
All Things Workplace | Steve Roesler  | @steveroesler
Orrin Woodward Leadership Team | Orrin Woodward | @Orrin_Woodward
Influential Marketing | Rohit Bhargava | @rohitbhargava
GDGT | Peter Rojas | @peterrojas
Brain Leaders and Learners | Dr. Ellen Weber | @EllenfWeber
Brain Based Biz | Dr. Robyn McMaster | @robynMcMaster
Triple Pundit | Jen Boynton | @triplepundit
Triple Pundit | Nick Aster | @triplepundit
Triple Pundit | Ryan Mickle | @triplepundit
Marketing Thoughts Blog | Ken McArthur | @kenmcArthur
Training Magazine’s Training Day Blog | Margery Weinstein | @margeryw
Awake at the Wheel | Jonathan Fields | @jonathanfields
Hot Mommas Project | Kathy Korman Frey | @chiefhotmomma
Hot Mommas Project | Amber Hunnicut | @HotMommasIntern
Youth Entrepreneurship Lady | Julie Kantor | @NFTEJuliek
Vault.com | Philip Stott | @VaultCareers
Vault.com | Linda Petock | @VaultCareers
Economist Mom | Diane Lim Rogers | @EconomistMom
Hank Wasiak | Hank Wasiak | @hankwasiak
Chris Brady’s Leadership Blog | Chris Brady | @rascaltweets
The Complete Innovator | Boris Pluskowski | @bpluskowski
PR Mama | Stephanie Smirnov | @ssmirnov
Ramblings from a Glass Half Full | Terry Starbucker | @Starbucker
Conference Hound | Jordan Enright-Schulz | @conferencehound
Conference Hound | Bruce Carlisle | @conferencehound
Successful Blog | Liz Strauss | @lizstrauss
Collaboration Solutions in Industry Segments | Bob Preston | @BobPrestonCCO
5 Blogs Before Lunch | David Allen Ibsen | @daveibsen
Angry Bear | Dan Crawford | @angrybearecon
Angry Bear | Ken Houghton | @angrybearecon
Tree Hugger | Matthew McDermott | @matmcdermott
Fast Company Expert Blogger | Seth Kahan | @SethKahan





Going from Green to Gold – a model for Innovation and Sustainability

1 09 2009

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It wasn’t that many long ago that friends and clients who have known me for a while, would start giggling when asking me a question on the topic of green innovation.

In part I think this was because of my reputation for doggedly insisting that companies focus exclusively on value creating activities – something that has always set myself firmly apart from so many others in the innovation space – and partly because they like to hear my rant on the history of how Sustainability became a respectable corporate pursuit – a “highlight” of a conference presentation I gave a few years ago.

In that “history” I detailed an amusing, but logical, development path starting with the originators of the true green movement (tree-hugging hippies from the 60’s..) and charting the development of that movement alongside the development of what’s become the modern day green agenda. Interestingly I think you can match the way corporate environmental programs gained credibility with the career development of these 60’s kids:

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The argument went something like this:

60-70s

– Kids – taking too much acid, hugging trees, and getting nothing in return but tree burns and bad hangovers. Hate big companies.

– Corporates – green? What green dept? Are you smoking something??….

70-80s

– Kids – now split up into two groups – the activists who decide to sober up and provide a more organized resistance to the destruction of the environment ; and their colleagues who realized they finally needed to get a job (usually at one of those hated big companies) in order to pay for their college loans  who then start financing the activists (hence the flourishing of organizations like Greenpeace)

– Corporates – with the influx of a new generation of workers, comes a changing culture. The kids joining the workforce bring with them an acute awareness of the environmental effects that starts to pervade the company they join.  Some of these kids even land roles in fledgling corporate environmental departments; but they’re not really taken seriously, are generally underfunded and ignored by the older controlling generation and thus their activities are reduced to minor programs like introducing recycling programs next to photocopying machines in their organizations. Regardless of any benefit they bring in, these departments are still generally regarded as cost centers.

90-2000’s

Now reaching middle/senior management positions in the big corporates they joined, the kids are finally in a position to mandate some the environmental morality they’ve carried with them from their youth. However, you don’t get to senior management without having developed an acute sense of business profitability – so whilst departments are formalized and programs are funded – they are done so on the condition that they contribute to overall company profitability.  Programs focus on becoming better Global Citizens, finding Eco-efficiencies, Sustainable Ventures to ensure the next generation of products can be built,  and responding to the overall global increase in the consumer demand for green products and industry(corresponding to the rise in 60s kids with disposable income! In fact, even today, despite the cost pressures of the current economic market, “environmentally friendly” still ranks as the #3 consumer priority behind “Price” (#2) and “Ability to do the job” (#1)). Sustainability and innovation offices of corporations are no longer seen as a cost center, but a potential profit center.

Likewise for their activist counterparts who have now realized that they’re getting too old to be chasing Japanese whaling ships around the Pacific and vain attempts to stop developed countries from testing nuclear weapons (“that shit gets dangerous dude”) – and have now set about embracing the overwhelming entrepreneurial spirit of the times to start up and develop new companies either providing new green products and services.

2010’s –

– With most of the 60s kids now in senior mgmt positions and corporate sustainability offices well established; they embark on the next phase of development – using Green as a platform from which to innovate – either by using it as a competitive differentiator, using nature as inspiration for innovative directions, or developing new breakthrough business models that exploit ecological factors. At this point, the sustainability and innovation offices of corporations are no longer seen as cost centers nor profit centers, but rather as a source of competitive advantage.

tree-huggerWhilst there was more than a touch of cynicism, and a fair dose lot of tongue-in-cheek in that history – there was also, in my mind, a lot of truth in there too, and it served well to ridicule managers still stuck in yesteryear with regards to their attitudes to corporate green initiatives.

For whilst there are some wonderful ecological, philanthropically, and social reasons for advancing a corporate green agenda – what’s actually making these things possible and viable from a corporate perspective – is the changing attitude of today’s Sustainability Executives who understand that a solid “Green” Strategy relies on focusing on activities that make the company solid “Gold” so to speak.

Whilst we would like to think of companies as being capable of selfless activities to make a better world for our children, avoid climatic, social, and economic doomsday scenarios, and generally reduce the impact that they have on this big blue cosmic marble we all inhabit – the truth is that they do this most effectively, with the most conviction, and with the most impact, when those activities have an impact on the bottom/top line too.

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You can call it a cynical observation on a capitalist society if you wish, but I simply call it a realistic observation on what really motivates companies to act and react in the modern era.

The good news though is that Green IS an issue that can drive just this type of impact – in many different and valuable forms – and if you’re looking to drive a successful green program – it’s crucial that you focus on this in order to be allowed to operate freely.

By now I’m sure you’re saying – “ok, ok – enough rhetoric Boris!” – so here’s some meat for you.  I spent a year going to multiple conferences, spoken to the sustainability arms of several large companies, and even attended a World Economic Forum event on sustainability as an “innovation expert” – and found myself developing a model that offers a comprehensive strategic formula for directing an innovative green agenda.

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You start by considering the 4 key elements that a company consumes and produces:

–       Water

–       Energy

–       Waste

–       Toxics

Although your company may not use/produce every single one of these elements; they constitute the backbone of a comprehensive environmental agenda (ps, proper attribution for the four elements has to go to Nike, who first introduced me to this elemental concept).  The idea is to then take each in turn (or combinations of the 4) and think about all the possible things you can do to them (always with a view to adding/contributing to company profitability):

–       Reuse/Recycle the element

–       Replace the element from your production cycle

–       Reduce the amount of the element you use/produce

–       Look for ways to increase your Revenue/utilization rate of that element

For example:

–       nike_airNike defines waste as “anything that doesn’t end up in the consumer’s closet” – the annual value of the waste they throw away amounts to an incredible $844,000,000 per annum – so finding even a manner to reduce waste by 1% can lead to significant financial gains

–       Several of the major superstores of one retail giant in the Southwest of the US have invested in covering the roofs of their stores with solar panels with the result that they not only are they reducing the amount of energy they’re consuming from the national grid; some stores even found out they were able to generate a surplus of energy which could be sold back to the grid, providing them with a new form of revenue.

–       600px-no_left_turn_signsvgUPS made headlines a few years ago when they rerouted their delivery routes to eliminate left hand turns – significantly reducing the amount of time their trucks spent idling waiting for a red light (For international readers, in the US, drivers in many states are allowed to make right hand turns on a red light). UPS also introduced a system whereby in certain cities with tight parking or narrow streets (like New York City for example) the driver will park his truck once in a central location, and then delivers smaller packages to the local area by bicycle instead.  Whilst these seem like very green initiatives, they also increase efficiency, and reduce fuel expense – a double whammy for UPS!

Finally – once you’ve considered the various angles offered to you by the model for your own production and consumption – start looking at how you can apply the model to both your inputs and outputs. Are there ways you can reduce the waste in products you source other companies by asking them to reduce the amount of packaging they use (maybe you can negotiate a better price in exchange for the savings you’re creating for them); or can you sell your waste products to someone else to reuse (creating a new revenue stream, whist also reducing waste); or maybe there’s a more efficient way to deliver your products to your customers (Think about how Apple didn’t even include a DVD drive with their recent MacBook Air line – instead suggesting that clients download all the software they need instead – reducing packaging, material cost and improving customer service and margins all in one go – not to mention better target the “road warrior” clients for whom light weight and high style are super important buying factors).

6a00d83452507d69e2011570387192970b-500wiI’m excited to see where the next generation of environmental agents takes the corporations of the future – for the next stage of environmental innovation is upon us – and that HAS to be good thing! Go forth and be green everyone!

In the meantime – please feel free to add in your own green stories and examples in the comments section below – I’d love to hear from you all!





A Look Beneath the Silver Lining

24 07 2009

SilverLiningCoverBearing in mind that I work in the innovation industry, I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore when people approach me with unusual propositions – and yet when my friend Renee Callaghan of Innosight approached me with this idea for a virtual book tour for Scott Anthony’s new book, The Silver Lining, it still took me a while to believe that she was serious.

Scott, after all, is already pretty well known in the innovation arena, having co-authored at least one seminal innovation book with the famed Clay Christensen – and also having then co-founded Innosight with that same person. And yet I guess it’s a sign of the networked world we live in that, instead of the traditional road trip involved in launching a book, Scott, and the Harvard Business School Press, have decided to innovate and instead pick a series of influential bloggers, podcasters, and v-loggers to have exclusive access to Scott for this first week of its proper launch.

I was of course, honored to be included in this exclusive group – and throughout this week you’ve probably been following the virtual tour across the internet which started at Chris Flanagan’s video interview at the Business Innovation Factory on Monday;  followed by a podcasted interview with Principled Innovation’s Jeff de Cagna on Tuesday;  FutureThink’s Josh Kutticherry on Wednesday; and then yesterday (Thursday)Jim McGee who in a spurt of over-achievement organized both an interesting podcast panel interview on his FastForward Blog as well as a full book review on his personal site,  McGee’s Musings.

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That left me with today, Friday the 24th July, and the anchor leg of the virtual whistle-stop tour for Scott. There was, admittedly, a certain sense of both comfort and dread in being the last on the list of people covering a book tour – not least of which my concern that it was kind of like drawing the 4pm speaking slot of a big two day conference – with the leftover people desperately sucking down coffee in a last ditch effort to make it through one last set of powerpoint slides.

However, there are as it turns out, some definite benefits – not least of which the rare opportunity to not only read Scott’s ideas in his book, but to also watch this reknown thought leader’s progress through the tour and grill him with some follow up questions from his other interviews.

3730-004-E39DD06FUnsurprisingly, Scott’s not exactly short of a sharp insight or two – if anything, talking to him is very much similar to reading his book – a virtual flood of useful thoughts and ideas – that really require you to stop and think about them in order to get the full benefit of them – so I ended up being thankful to be the last one to get passed the baton so to speak.

With that in mind – here are the highlights from my conversations with Scott these last few weeks:

————Start of Interview———

>>Scott – love the new book, and not just because of the shiny silver cover – but why this, and why now? There’s no shortage of new books on innovation on the market – why do we need another one? And what sets this book apart from the others?

ScottAnthony

The idea for The Silver Lining came in an October meeting of the Innosight leadership team. As it seemed like the business world was collapsing, we were deciding what was the right message to bring to our clients. It didn’t take more than a half day of research to realize that innovation was still possible, no matter how dark the times. We knew that innovation was growing increasingly critical. And we knew that despite the sense of gloom that innovation was increasingly within the grasp of managers everywhere. Hence, the idea for a book describing what to do to seize the still ample opportunities that exist in today’s markets. My hope is to inspire entrepreneurs and corporate innovators, and to provide them with practical guidance that can help them seize their own silver lining.

>>Throughout the book, you refer to it being “a playbook for uncertain times”,  do you think innovation processes need to be different in good times versus bad?

Honestly I don’t think there are as many differences between innovation in good times and innovation in bad times. The funny thing is that the practices that feel more natural when times are bad – limit resources, focus on learning as quickly as possible, shut down flawed projects early – actually are the right practices in ANY time. That’s the silver lining of today’s tough times – it forces companies to do what they should have been doing already. Some things do become more important in tough times. Pruning has to happen more rapidly. Loving the low end becomes more important. I think the more important question is what do you have to do differently as change accelerates. The guidance of my colleague Dick Foster rings true here: you have to change at the pace and the scale of the market, without losing control. That means quickly iterating towards successful strategies, and developing an individual competency to grapple with the paradoxes that increasingly characterize today’s world.

>>Like you, I’ve also been observing the increasing pace of change in the world and urging people to react and plan accordingly – but, in your opinion, what are the key drivers of this increasing pace of change? – and do you think that pace is here to stay? And at what point does that pace flatten out? Surely it can’t just keep on increasing indefinitely.. (just imagine – you come up with something and instantly “poof!” it’s out of date already! Quite a frightening thought..) !

speedTo be completely honest, I see no reason why the pace of change won’t continue to accelerate. There have been three primary – and interrelated – drivers over the past decade. The first is the dramatic improvement in technologies, which makes communication, collaboration, coordination, and creation much simpler. The second is the growing importance of emerging economies like Brazil, India, and China, which have growing classes of entrepreneurs. The final has been a huge amount of capital to help fund entrepreneurial ventures and further improve technologies. Now, some might argue that capital has dried up, but there’s still a lot of money out there. Further, it’s a lot cheaper and easier to start and scale a business than it was a decade ago. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and I’m coming to the viewpoint that the only two real sources of competitive advantages are brands and business models. Brands because they can cause people to do some irrational things. Business models because they are incredibly difficult to copy. But technological based advantages are transitory. Cost advantages are transitory. It’s scary, because it means the only thing you can be sure about is that tomorrow’s business will bear little resemblance to today’s business.

>>Does Innosight itself uses the principles outlined in your book internally to sustainably innovate itself?  Could you give me some examples?

We most certainly have put the principles in the book (and more broadly the disruptive principles) to work. On a general level, one of Innosight’s premises is that by using well-grounded theory we can solve seemingly complicated problems more quickly and cheaply than a company that uses “unstructured problem solving” to guide its approach. We constantly prune our innovation portfolio. This year we have accelerated efforts that we think are critical to long-term competitive advantage, such as building deeper competency in market understanding, business model innovation, and new business creation, and decelerated lower-priority areas, such as developing a disruptive design capability. We have made sure that we are investing in areas that are critical for us to deliver distinctive service (e.g., training), but curtailing investment in areas that are less important (e.g., legal services).

We always think about the smart management of strategic experiments. For example, when we were thinking about building that disruptive design capability, we designed a very simple test: we gave the idea to our sales force (our leadership team) and said “go pitch this to current and prospective clients.” Six weeks later, we had no market interest. Part of this I suspect is because selling disruptive design services is very different from selling management consulting services. That doesn’t mean disruptive design services is a bad idea, but it means if we have to move it through our current sales force it won’t work, and since we’re not building a new sales force this year, the idea goes on ice.

>>I guess one big question that Corporate America is still asking though is “where does the future of innovation as a corporate competency lie?” – Already it means so many different things to different industries – in Pharma, R&D dominates; in Tech, IT runs the show; and in CPGs the Innovation Manager is frequently a fancy name for what used to be a brand manager – will Innovation continue to be narrowly focused in the future? Do you see it spreading out across the enterprise to be more all encompassing?  Or will it simply devolve to be a general competency that’s seen as “everyone’s job” with no set leadership (something I’ve heard way too often if you ask me; and frequently ends up being a euphemism for “we’re too lazy to do anything about this”…)?

I_in_innovationMy own personal view is it is an “and.” The companies that are really far along in their innovation journey do expect it to be the job of the many. That is, they ask their legal department, external relationship department, and so on to constantly think of doing old things differently or doing new things. But if you only have a “everybody innovate” approach with no focused efforts the odds that you do anything truly breakthrough are pretty low. So I see a hybrid model, where there is a general culture of innovation supported by innovation “hot spots” that tackle specific problems. P&G is an instructive example. The company certainly thinks innovation is one of its core competencies and expects everyone to think and act innovatively. But it also has specific structures, like a Corporate Innovation Fund and a division designed to create new businesses (FutureWorks). It’s seeking the “and.” That’s usually a good thing.

>>You mentioned in your interview at the Business Innovation Factory earlier this week that “the only thing you can predict with a fairly high degree of  certainty is that there will be less certainty in the future”  – that’s a pretty daunting warning of the state of affairs to most business executives in established companies out there. How do you manage in an era of such uncertainty? – The obvious implications of that outlook are things like higher failure rates, lower returns, and less predictability in the business of the future – which makes it pretty hard to do many traditional actions and functions like corporate and financial planning – let alone a change in mindsets of the executives in the future. What kinds of changes are necessary to survive and thrive in a permanently uncertain world?

I was talking to a client this week about their strategic planning process. It was done by a small group of specialists once a year. I told them that had to change. It had to be a continuous activity with broad contribution. That’s broadly true now. The world moves too fast for people to sit back and ponder. Now, thinking is still important, but you have to increase the pace with which you take the pulse of the market, or you are going to miss an important signal. These implications don’t have to be dire if people act in the right way. That is, to embrace that your assumptions aren’t right and to be ready to course correct as you learn. I’d argue that acting in the right ways will actually increase OVERALL success rates and returns, because the failures will happen much faster, which means you find the success sooner and don’t throw good money after bad going in the wrong direction.

>>You also mentioned at the end of that interview that your goal at Innosight was to help clients introduce “greater predictability and reliability” into their innovations – isn’t that an oxymoron bearing in mind your previous comment about less certainty in the business world? Won’t the lack of certainty also make innovation less predictable?

At a micro level, yes, I think any singular innovation effort based on assumptions about a market is going to de facto have less predictability because there is a greater chance that those assumptions won’t pan out. At a macro level, however, the right process and approach that allows companies to go after the right opportunities and to quickly learn about those assumptions completely changes the frequency with which they succeed in a way that overwhelms the micro changes.

>>I think one of the things I like most about your book is the sheer practical nature of it – you include a lot of practical tools for following your recommendations – BUT a lot of the things you recommend for companies to do are pretty scary/alien concepts for most companies (and quite rightly so!) – but as a manager trying to implement these techniques at a company, you’d be facing an uphill battle against the status quo – how would you go about overcoming those objections and introducing your company to these techniques, concepts and measures?

[UNSET]The notion of smart strategic experiments doesn’t apply just to new products. It applies to new processes and approaches inside a company. I would recommend that managers try to find a “safe place” to run an experiment. In other words, don’t try to convince leadership with logic, or what’s in a book, demonstrate to them the results of doing things differently. Actions always speak louder than words. One simple thing I’ve seen people do is get together a group of senior leaders to kick around these concepts. Almost always, one of the leaders walks away with an insight that causes them to want to learn more.

>>In the FastForward Blog you said “There has been academic research that shows that the better organizations get at six sigma kinds of processes, the better they get at incremental innovation and the worse they get at disruptive innovation.” – and I fully agree with you in the need to bring in discipline into the innovation process – heck, my clients probably even get bored of hearing me say the words  “process” and “discipline” at meetings – but in a world that has embraced (and rightfully so to an extent) Six Sigma processes that, as you mentioned, have a tendency to choke out the possibility of disruptive innovation – how do the two things co-exist? How can you institute both the “error-free” culture of Six Sigma with the “failure tolerant” Innovation culture?

There is no company that I’ve seen that has embraced disruptive innovation in any serious way that hasn’t create substantial organizational space for disruption. The extreme is a fully autonomous “skunkworks,” but I’ve also seen people keep efforts internal, but have disruptive innovation efforts follow a different process, at least at the front end of the innovation funnel. Six Sigma processes aren’t bad of course. And the principles of Six Sigma around swarming problems, testing hypotheses, and constant learning, actually are very good for all types of innovation. The application can be troublesome though.

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>>When you spoke to Jeff de Cagna in his Principled innovation Podcast, you talk briefly about the need for a new generation of managers to emerge with a brand new set of “muscles” that have yet to be evolved in the current generation of “operators” – can you expand upon this idea – what are those muscles, and how do you see companies hiring and developing this new talent?

It’s a great question. Again, I’ll make a macro and a micro comment. At a macro level, managers have to learn how to operate in ambiguous circumstances where they can’t “get” data that shows them the way – they have to create it. They have to learn to grapple with paradoxical demands, such as using core capabilities to beat competitors but being willing to walk away from those core capabilities to beat competitors (different competitors of course). At a micro level, innovators need all sorts of skills. They need to hear what the customer can’t articulate. They need to be able to “pitch” an idea before it’s fully formed in ways that leadership and customers can understand. They have to be able to translate customer insight into opportunity. They have to be able to “un pack” an idea to find its most critical assumptions. And a whole bunch more. Once you begin to understand what these things are, you can look for people who have experiences that suggest they have confronted similar challenges in the past (what Morgan McCall calls “schools of experience”). And you can begin to consciously expose managers to circumstances where they have no choice but to develop these skills. Of course, I think reading fine books like The Silver Lining and The Innovator’s Guide to Growth helps!

————End of Interview———

So all in all, what do I think about this book:

Let’s start with the negatives – Certainly it’s a very thorough book – covering most of the key aspects around corporate innovation. At times however, it had a very academic feel to it – a fact underpinned by a 10 page “Notes” section at the back of the book containing all the references mentioned in the previous 184 pages – and many of the chapters do sometimes read as a recap of other books and concepts that Scott has written in the past.

I also found Scott’s frequent use of ‘anonymous’ examples likewise a bit frustrating – “For example, one company was thinking about developing a disruptive strategy in the real estate market”- but WHO are they??

jerry_seinfeld__1_I’ve seen authors doing this as a way to build surprise when you find out the answer later in the chapter that the “small technology company” doing everything differently ended up being someone like Google – but for many of the examples in the Silver Lining that “reveal” never happens – and to me, it’s the equivalent of starting a joke that should be “A Priest, a Rabbi and a Vicar walk into a bar….” with “Three gentlemen of varied faiths walk into  an establishment selling alcohol…” – Sure, you get the point, but it just isn’t as powerful or as memorable – and the ability to make examples like that memorable (and thus reuseable) are a key element to a top notch book in my mind.

However – when it comes to the key questions:

Was the book useful? Absolutely – the book covers a wide range of topics and even if you see it as a “Best of Scott Anthony, et al” – there’s no denying the sheer thoroughness of the ideas in the book.

Was the book practical? Absolutely – the book is loaded with a powerful set of tools at the end of each chapter that far transcends the usual business book model of a few 2×2 grids and 100 pages of filler. Rarely do you see a book that gives away so much, and in such a compact manner.

thumbs_upWould I recommend it? Absolutely – the book is a fantastic addition to anyone’s innovation library and a ready reference for any practitioner in the innovation field – for, to paraphrase something I heard Scott himself say earlier this week, “every time you run an experiment, you learn new skills and new capabilities that could open up new opportunities in the future” – and if nothing else, this book will arm you with ideas and tools that will inspire you to experiment, learn, and find new opportunities.





World Innovation Forum ’09 on Twitter

6 05 2009

Just a quick one folks – if you’re on Twitter, do a search for the # tag “#wif09” – there are a fair number of Bloggers/Twitters here who are covering the event quite well – take a look and get some insights!








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