The 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation Success

7 04 2010

[tweetmeme]Always an avid reader of the Financial Times, (one of the few decent news sources in an otherwise barren information landscape here in the US)  I came across a great commentary/review by the FT’s always fabulous Lucy Kellaway on the “Money-Honey’s” (CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo) recent book “The Ten Laws of Enduring Success”.

Lucy does amusingly short work of debunking the 10 laws that Maria came up with, and proposes a few laws of her own instead.

Lucy’s Laws were so much better formulated (in my opinion) that it got me thinking about the “Laws” of successful Innovation programs – not least of which because I think the first couple would be the same as the ones Lucy came up with.

So, here are my 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation Success:

1) Be Lucky – no matter how many different ways you squeeze it, Innovation is about luck.With your typical long term program “failing” 75% of the time, there can be no doubt that it takes a certain amount of luck to be successful – especially over the longer term.

You are in essence, shooting into the dark with most innovation programs – trying products and processes that haven’t been tried before in your company, your industry, or sometimes even the world.

That’s not to say you can’t improve your chances of getting lucky though. Unlike with the Las Vegas casinos, no one will kick you out of the game for learning the innovation equivalent of card counting techniques. Indeed, in this game, cheating of any form is encouraged; and banding together in casino-busting style innovation teams with other individuals and companies is heavily rewarded.

By setting up and executing robust innovation strategies and processes you are in essence increasing the predictability of the Lucky Breaks you get – And in Innovation, Luckier is most definitely Better.

2)  Be Ambitious – There’s an old saying: “Fortune Favors the Brave” – and nowhere else is that truer than in the Innovation game. To score big, you have to aim big.  If you only look for incremental ideas, then that’s all you’ll get.

During my time at Imaginatik, we used to make the bold claim of being able to consistently achieve “a 10x ROI on your investment”.  How did we make sure that happened? By making sure that the problems being targeted by the client’s innovation strategy were big enough to achieve at least that. And you know what? It worked.

3)  Stay Focused – Running an Innovation program at a big company is kind of like a subscription to a “Shiny-New-Toy-Of-The-Month” Club.  It’s easy to get distracted by the current toy sent to you. It’s easy to forget to go to the mailbox for the following month’s toy because you’re having too much fun with this month’s toy still. And after a while, it’s easy to forget the reason you shelled out so much money to get the subscription in the first place.

To that end, maintaining a laser-like focus on what you’re trying to achieve is imperative for an innovation program.  Your Innovation strategy needs to be revisited constantly and attacked with the same brutality for embracing change as you’re demanding from the organization with the innovations that you are introducing.  Your strategy needs to be a fluid structure with one constant– “How can I best drive significant business results and organic growth for my organization?” – and you should make sure that your processes and actions are targeted at achieving that goal.

4)  Embrace Everyone – not in a “creepy guy who keeps looking at me funny” way – but rather in a “let’s talk to, and get input from, as many different people as possible” in your quest to solve your corporations problems.

Innovation, more so than any other business discipline is leading the way in the upcoming socialized business revolution. That revolution will herald a new era where a company’s potential knowledge-base of solutions is no longer limited to the company walls, nor even close collaborators, but will instead embrace a global audience of potential participants.

To do this, you’ll need to begin to develop new skill sets that will involve learning how to identify which communities of people provide you with specific types of input; learning to set up and drive Social Teams to turn subsets of those communities into useable and active groups that will help you achieve your goals; and learning how to make those groups self sustainable so as to make sure they’re constantly available to you as a resource.

That’s it – 4 simple laws for ensuring that you not only become successful, but also stay successful. Keep these 4 on a post-it on your desk, on a poster on your wall, or as the screensaver on your laptop – whatever works for you – just do them!

Do you have any other Laws to Enduring Innovation Success?[tweetmeme]






Could Information Flow spell the End of the “Great Recession”?

24 03 2009
Back in Boston

Back in Boston

It’s good to be back in Boston after 3 months of travelling around the world– finally back in my own bed, back with my friends, and back to being able to write on this blog.

I’m not sure what I expected to happen to the business environment whilst I was away, but I think it’s safe to say that no one would’ve expected the deterioration that’s happened over the last few months. Since I’ve gotten back, it’s been interesting to see the various different viewpoints I’ve heard on what the current recession is, and how long it may last – everything from a very doom and gloom “10+ years of darkness” from Mark Turrell, my former CEO – to rather more optimistic visions of “over by this summer” from one of my former clients.Credit Crunch

All we ever really know about recessions however, is that they very rarely conform to the timelines we predict for them, with things getting worse quicker than expected, and likewise businesses recovering faster than we expected – no one ever comes out with an accurate prediction (that I know of– by all means let me know if any of you find a reliably accurate source!). One would think that with the pace of change still at breakneck speeds however, that the pace of change/recovery within the markets would be equally quick – with the effect of information flow and arbitrage essentially magnifying the classic economic indicators – on the one side magnifying the negative effects of the banking problems we’re currently still facing – but then probably helping us to come out of the other side that much quicker too…

It was then with interest that I read a blog post by my friend, Donald Smith on his “Perspectives on Connected Innovation” Blog. The post, entitled “The Race to the Top – Information Arbitrage” – details a new goal in organizations as they embrace social media to both save money at the bottom, and look for value-adding advantages from unique information sources at the top.picture-3

As he puts it:

“Today, value comes from the following statements:

“Did you see?”

“I found…”

“Check this out…”

Information is driving a “race to the top” in terms of value. Each newly discovered tweet, story, or theory could be the nugget that wins recognition, fame, or accomplishment. So we mine Twitter and read RSS dumps trying to identify the tidbit that will be most valued by the organization. ….. No longer do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on professional groups to network in my industry or thousands of dollars to bring in consultants. The web makes this information more accessible and in most cases free. The challenge for employees is to make the information palatable for the organization to devour.”

Don, and I say this with unabashed extreme jealousy, has the enviable situation of being on a paid sabbatical to explore the whole world of innovation and social media for his company – to essentially develop and disseminate a flow of information on this subject for the corporation’s benefit. There was a time, not that long ago, where a company doing something like this was not that alien (pre-2001 for example..) but now? During a recession?

Combine that then with my experience on a recent job interview with a large company (and former client) for a role where I would be leading a team to drive a flow of innovations into the organization to solve problems 3-4 years out. Based on my previous experience, companies generally expect roles like this to generate some form of identifiable value every year in order to justify budgets and also as a prime measurement of performance amongst other things. But this company was different – it seems that they see value in simply establishing a flow of new insights, innovative thoughts, and information even if it doesn’t lead to actual executable implementations. Again, in a so-called massive recessionary environment – this is either incredibly progressive – or incredibly reckless – thinking.

Unless, of course, we’re all wrong about where we are in the economic environment. Could actions like the one exhibited by Don’s company and the one I interviewed with be a sign that the market has bottomed out?ist2_5267850-volatile-stock-market

As I commented on Don’s Blog – the point at which companies stop looking at the bottom line and start valuing input other than cash is typically only seen when a company is growing and prospering. Could the development and recognition of information flow as a source of value be a sign that the recession is beginning to finish? Some may think of that as optimistic – but it’s not the only signs out there – and the ramifications for a business world that embraces the massive information flow that is driving the social world at the moment is quite…interesting to say the least.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? – if so – please share!





The One Big Thing…for Innovation

9 12 2008

one_finger_350oIn my last few days now at Imaginatik, a lot of contemplative questions keep getting asked at me by team members and colleagues hoping to glean one last bit of knowledge from me before I leave – but probably the best was from a colleague who asked me, if I could only pick one thing that made or broke an innovation program – what would it be.  My response – had I been better prepared and more dramatic in nature would’ve been – should’ve been – to just put up one finger and say “This!”.

The reason why that would’ve been perfect comes from a scene in one of my favorite movies, City Slickers, in which a fantastic Jack Palance (as the weathered cowboy, Curly) shares the secret of life with a weary and overwhelmed Billy Crystal (as the city boy, Mitch):

 

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?  (holds up one finger)  This!

Mitch: Your finger?

city_slickers_movie_image_jack_palance__1_3Curly: One thing. Just one thing.  You stick with that and the rest just don’t matter…

Mitch: But what is the one thing?

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

For me, this quote has always inspired a good deal of thought and contemplation – and for a piece of deep thought to be thrown into a comedy like City Slickers, even more so – but when it comes to innovation – it’s also the key to remembering one of the most important things that gets ignored by companies.

I so often have seen programs fail because they didn’t take this into account. I’ve seen innovation initiatives go nowhere because they never thought to ask the big question.  And more recently I’ve seen Social Networking and other Collaborative applications achieve nothing because they were too enamored to tick a box and say “yes we can” than spend the time to think about “why they should”.

You see – whilst there are tons of ways in which to make a collaborative application succeed, there’s one sure fire way to make it fail from a corporate perspective, and that’s to ignore (he says, holding up one finger) “This!”.

What is “This” I hear you say? The one thing you stick with that makes it all tick?  Purpose.

What humans need in life, strive for in life, require in order to be happy and motivated – is a purpose. It is what gives our lives meaning, makes us feel like we’ve accomplished, and ultimately makes us want to do more. People spend their entire lives looking to find the purpose in their lives – and whilst it is different for everyone – the need for it is just as strong for everyone.

Now I don’t mean to come across all evangelical – and I certainly don’t have the meaning of life all sorted out – but I do know what makes people tick – Purpose. So why is it then that so many companies ignore that when trying to engage their workforce in any kind of initiative. So many companies are rushing out there to tick a box, to implement a tool, to start a new collaborative initiative so as to be able to claim to shareholders, customers, and the outside world as a whole that they’re on top of things – that they don’t stop to think about ensuring that there’s a purpose to it all.

When at Imaginatik, and we developed Idea Central and idea management as a whole – what really set us apart from the old school Knowledge Management practices was that we gave people a purpose to actually participate – a reason to make it worthwhile.  Facebook is successful because it fulfills a purpose in people’s lives – to more easily connect with their friends. LinkedIn – to more easily keep in touch with the people with whom we do business and to enable us to leverage that to our benefit in the future – whether that be sales, getting a new job, or even as referrals. Pick any kind of successful social networking tools (and there are, contrary to popular belief – PLENTY of failed and failing ones out there) and you’ll find they all have one thing in common – they’ve given/provided people with a (good) purpose to participate. 

Yet I still see companies running innovation programs without a clear set of goals or purpose. I see companies distributing social networking tools, without making it clear why, what for, or how it will benefit the end user. It is of course then, no surprise when I see these programs fail.

It’s not enough to just know the purpose for yourself either – you have to live, breathe, and communicate that purpose with passion in order for it to be felt and responded to by the rest of the community you’re trying to tap into – but when you do – the response and value created can’t be underestimated.

610x1

Now if I could only find a way to go back in time and repeat my answer to my colleague with a little more flair, I could leave Imaginatik looking as cool as old Jack himself….

 








<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: