Advertisements

Innovation – do you WANT to win? Well, do you?

13 10 2010

[tweetmeme]
If you’ve never been to the annual Business Innovation Factory conference (#BIF6 on twitter), it’s really quite a trip. More of a mini-TED conference than anything specifically innovation related – it’s all about enabling people to share stories about things they’ve achieved, thought of, experienced, and so on.  The end result is that you don’t necessarily walk away with a series of bullet point “To-Do”’s like you might at other conferences – but you do end up with a simmering pot of interesting thoughts and ideas just waiting to boil over the top.

This year, two speakers said things that stuck in my head and kept me thinking. Such is the way my mind works that unfortunately I can no longer remember who they were – but I’m sure someone will eventually remind me in the comments below this post 🙂

The first of these insights was an observation that, if you have two equally matched sports teams, and one team’s members actively want to win, whilst the other team isn’t bothered – then chances are, the team that wants to win, will do so. Sounds obvious really, but it brings an interesting question to mind when you bring that concept into the business world – which, at the heart of it, has similar competitive dynamics.

If you have two equally matched companies competing against each other, the company that collectively wants to win more – will probably do so. “Desire to Win” is a competitive differentiator in effect.

With that in mind, however – how many of us actively try to instill that desire to win into our employees? How many companies actively engage in “Win Management”? You could even say that what really differentiates a successful innovator/entrepreneur from normal people is that never-ending drive to win “the game” of business.

This is even more amplified in the Innovation world where the risk of failure is ever present and embraced as a part of everyday life. It is a daily competition to beat the odds and win the game of innovation.

Pair that thought up now with another insight from that same conference. Apparently, at any one point in most organizations, only 20% of the staff are actively engaged and enjoying the job they’re doing.  I would personally argue that that number seems a little high to me – and is probably rotating too – that is, we’re not necessarily talking about the same 20% year round, as people naturally go through cycles of loving/hating/being indifferent to their work.

I would also argue that one of the reasons why people don’t get engaged in their jobs, is because their jobs (ie their companies) don’t engage them. They feel like they have no say, no ability to make an impact, no reason to want to win….

So it stands to reason that if a company really wants to win at Innovation they need to both instill a competitive desire to win in their organizations, and to tap into and maintain that desire by actively engaging their population in strategic innovation decisions.

And by “Engagement” I don’t mean just listening to your employees – I mean actually “Doing” something with their input. Business, and especially Innovation – is a team sport – and no one wants to be relegated to being the guy on the subs bench that never gets on the field.

So now you know what you have to do, you have to ask yourself – Do you want to win at Innovation? Well, do you?…

Advertisements




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]






The Need for Variety and the Innovation Quiver

16 03 2010

[tweetmeme]Innovation, like writing, is a fickle mistress really – easy to find one day, hard to find the next – but always around somewhere.

At the recommendation of my good friend, fellow Bostonian and business author extraordinaire Steve Shapiro, I’d begun to use a local Starbucks as a place to go and get inspired and avoid the typical distractions that keep popping up in my office.

However, this last week or so, my Starbucks was failing me; it simply wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Whether it was  the constant parade of chatty college girls passing through the doors, releasing a blast of cold air to all inside; or the large trimmed windows reminding me of the yucky grey day I was trying to avoid outside , I just couldn’t find the inspiration I needed to begin writing anything useful. My trusty “innovation tool” simply wasn’t working for me anymore.

It occurred to me that something needed to change, so I got up and walked out the door. I ended up walking into the cavernous interior of the Boston Public Library, and found a desk and chair nestled somewhere within the US History section – that for whatever reason seemed to call to me. Surrounded by books on George Washington’s military career on one side and books on  Thomas Jefferson’s political career on the other and before I knew it, the floodgates had opened and off I was writing again!

As I wrote and reflected upon my inner creation demons that I was struggling to overcome just a few hours earlier – I was thus reminded of one of the most important lessons in innovation – the need for variety in an innovation program. Let me explain:

Whilst you should strive to make innovation a repeatable, sustainable process, that doesn’t mean it should be executed like an automaton. I’ve seen too many clients ultimately fail because they don’t understand that they simply can’t rely on a single trusted process to last them forever. There are 3 main reasons for this, in no particular order:

1)   Innovation is about problem solving – identifying, defining, and solving problems that will drive new growth opportunities for your company to be precise.  Problems have a tendency to be unique, to offer individual challenges that need to be understood and overcome – and whilst most can frequently be tackled in more than one way, to rely on one single methodology to tackle all of them is foolish.

2)   Modern day innovation is a highly human intensive process, relying on creative and constructive contributions from a variety of sources – employees, suppliers, customers, and more. As such, we are subject to the subtle whims of the human creative conscience.  In other words – people get bored.

They also can just get creatively exhausted. Keep asking the same subset of people a continuous stretch of questions and you’ll notice participation slowly, and sometimes dramatically, fall off. No matter how important the topic, people reach the limits of their creative thought endurance.

3)   Modern day Innovation is also no longer the domain of a few, but rather the expectation of the many. You’re now expected to run an innovation program that is no longer confined to one part of your company like R&D, but reaches out across all aspects of your business in search of the next big thing that will eek out a few more points of competitive advantage in the market.  And that reach doesn’t stop at the traditional corporate walls, but extends to a global audience with the understanding that the best solution to your problems will frequently lie outside of those walls.

What that means is that you’re now talking to a variety of people – some internal, some external, some trusted, some unknown – each of which should be handled in a different manner to obtain ideal collaborative input from them.

I’ve frequently told my clients that they should think of their innovation program as a quiver of arrows – the more arrows you have, and the better aim you have, the more your chances of coming back home with a nice venison dinner rather than a shot-up turnip.

Each arrow in the innovation “quiver” is designed to offer a different way to bring in a solution to the innovation problem at hand; and by using a variety of arrows in your innovation program, you not only become a better and more well rounded “hunter”, you also become more adept and understanding how best to overcome the environmental conditions at hand.

Ask a cross sectional group of employees for their ideas on how to solve a specific problem. No success? Then ask a different cross section of employees in a different manner. Maybe your internal staff has reached exhaustion point, or maybe they’re just too close to this particular problem. Look outside then! Maybe we invite specific suppliers and partners to have a go at the solution in our Idea Lab. Maybe we invite the local entrepreneur community to show their potential solutions in an Entrepreneur Day at our offices.  Have we found several solutions now? Maybe we bring in interesting entrepreneurs from inside/outside the company to a “Dragon’s Den” (“Shark Tank” in the US) type of event. Or how about setting up a virtual idea market to tap into the wisdom of the crowds instead?

Each of these methods and many more should be developed as innovation arrows in your quiver that can be reused multiple times to ensure an active, engaged and efficient innovation program that will drive the achievement of corporate growth goals.

It’s an interesting paradox though how many in the innovation industry, an area where we endeavor to bring a state of constant (but controlled) change into our organizations, don’t consider the necessity for that same state in our very own innovation programs.

In other words, we decide upon one arrow to use, and we keep on using it until it fails to work anymore before we begin to look around our bare quiver for further possibilities.

How many arrows do you keep in your quiver?…





“Innovation in a Collaboration World” – the other side of the coin with #innochat on 28 Jan 2009 – 12pm EST

27 01 2010

Collaboration is, apparently,  “the new hot thing” in Innovation nowadays. Not that it’s all that new – but it certainly is hot. More than a passing trend, it’s surely just a concept whose time has finally come after years of flirting with the edges of corporate credibility.

Now, the drive toward a socialized business structure is firmly on course thanks to the penetration of Web2.0 technologies not just through business, but through our personal lives too – the net effect being a gradual cultural change towards accepting a universe where the exchange of information and knowledge in a seamless, timeless, and social manner is quickly becoming “the way it is”.

Companies have, this time, been quick to jump on board as visible value is finally being derived from social collaborative initiatives – and corporate innovation processes have been at the forefront of those driving that value. As a result, collaboration practices are now considered “de rigeur” for any innovation program looking to be taken seriously by corporate executives and shareholders alike.

But is it being “all it can be?” – to paraphrase the old US Army slogan?

That’s the general theme of this week’s #INNOCHAT (Thurs, 28 January at 12PM EST) – when it tackles the second part of a massive 2-part discussion on “Collaborative Innovation” with #smchat (Weds 1PM EST) which I’ve been asked to moderate.

On the Wednesday, we’ll have discussed the social aspects of collaborative innovation with #smchat. As expert consultants and practitioners in Innovation, #INNOCHAT team participants are, however, the better placed to delve into the process side of the Collaborative Innovation discussion.

You see, whilst collaboration may well be the “new hot thing”, but in most companies, its use is still very limited – even within innovation functions – where it can be most commonly found on either “end” of the innovation process. So we’ll be exploring and uncovering the how, where, and why collaboration can be used at each stage of a high level idealized innovation process, namely:

1)   Discovering and Framing the Problem

2)   Collecting Ideas and Solutions

3)   Building ideas into mature concepts

4)   Developing the new product

5)   Marketing/Selling/Executing and expanding a new Product/Process/Concept

At each stage of the process, I’ll be asking participants to discuss how they’ve seen collaboration work at each stage – what are the business models for its use? What are the pitfalls to watch out for? What are the noteworthy solutions and companies out there? And most importantly – what are the new rules for success in this new collaborative innovation world?

Have more questions / issues you’d like to see addressed? Add them below in the comments section and I’ll add them to the agenda!

As with #smchat’s conversation, there’s a LOT to cover in the 90 minutes allocated to this discussion, and the conversation is typically fast and furious in order to get through as much as possible.

However, if you’re unable to take part in the synchronized chat, please take advantage of the various tools available to download a transcript (I use the built in service on (http://www.wthashtag.com/innochat usually) and then continue on the conversation with the other participants throughout the week!





“Collaboration in an Innovation World” – setting the stage for a landmark #smchat on 27 Jan 2009 – 1pm EST

26 01 2010

Collaboration and Business have long been interesting bed fellows, ever flirting with each other, but rarely embracing each other.

For business, collaboration has been an attractive mistress, full of allure and promise, but always just out of reach – never delivering on the early promise shown.

For Collaboration, Business is the bad boy with a leather jacket on a Harley – knowing that great things could be achieved if only business wasn’t so selfishly focused on personal profit.

Although the above is probably not the best analogy I’ve ever come up with, it holds more than a nugget of truth in it. After all, businesses have been toying with collaborative processes and technologies for quite some time now. Globalization and the pervasiveness of web 2.0 tools have accelerated this interest further for most companies – and yet, rarely is this interest rewarded by real rewards.

Nowhere in the increasingly socialized business of today is this more evident than in Corporate Innovation programs – the other newfound darling of recent years. By combing the two, companies finally found a method by which to use the global knowledge base at its disposal to drive real corporate value in the form of improved product pipelines, powerful value chain partnerships, new business models, and other forms of competitive advantage – the lifeblood of any lasting corporate entity.

However – there’s a snag to this wonderful idealist concept.  It turns out there’s more to Collaboration than buying a tool, or putting a smart manager in charge of the initiative. It turns out that Collaboration, like any other process that relies on human interaction to succeed, is complicated.  It turns out, that Collaboration is simply not a cheap date – needing to be wined and dined, wooed, and convinced that Business is a truly a worthy mate, before deciding to intertwine her power with his… (to carry on my analogy a step or two too far probably..)

But just how does Business do that wooing? In other words, as business people – what are the ways in which we, can mobilize the global knowledge base to help us in our endeavor to drive corporate value?

This is the question we’re aiming to answer on this week’s #SMCHAT on Wednesday – part one of a two part intertwining of powers with #INNOCHAT that follows up on Thusday. As an “expert” on the discipline/art of Collaborative Innovation, I’ve been given the task of moderating both discussions this week.

As experts in the Social Media arena, contributors to #smchat are perfectly positioned to tackle the social implications of this collaborative conundrum. So here’s the list of themes I’ll be driving people along to – feel free to comment on them, or add further questions and areas for the group to tackle:

1)   We can Build it, but will they come? – There are two main problems that come up right at the beginning of any collaborative process – and innovation is no different: Who do we want to ask for help? And how do we ensure they agree to show up?

2)   Let’s look at the Tools: Assuming we know who to ask – what are the success criteria for a good collaborative innovation tool?

3)   Why should I? : Innovation is unique amongst collaborative initiatives in being most able to show a direct line between input, and valuable output. After all, the result of innovation initiatives is the creation of new value for a corporate entity – so why should audiences participate? There are some obvious benefits for employees to take part, but what about people external to the organization?  Companies have tried a variety of different incentive programs from outright cash rewards, to tangential rewards (e.g. gift vouchers), to virtual achievement badges, to absolutely nothing.  Is there a one-size fits all? Is it realistic to expect altruistic contribution from people with nothing to gain? And if you decide to give rewards – how much is appropriate?

4)   How much is enough? : Just how much collaboration is enough? Can you ever over-collaborate on an idea?  Is collaborating on an idea different to than collaborating on a more mature concept? Are there differing levels of collaboration required at different points in time?

As you can see, there’s rather a lot to cover in the 90 minutes allocated to this topic -and I’ll be aiming to get through as much as possible. If you’re unable to take part in the synchronized chat, please take advantage of the various tools available to download a transcript (I use the built in service on (http://www.wthashtag.com/smchat usually) and then continue on the conversation with the other participants throughout the week!

Then, for the other side of the coin – don’t forget that #INNOCHAT tackles Innovation in a Collaborative World” on Jan 28 at 12PM EST.  See you all there!





Tackling Collaborative Innovation – the #smchat and #innochat doubleheader

22 01 2010

I should’ve known better really – after, all it’s happened once before, so surely I should’ve spotted it coming a mile away when I  1) was dumb enough to make some suggestions on #innochat for future topics and then 2) found myself on the receiving end of a seemingly innocent telephone call with Chris Jones, Renee Hopkins and Gwen Ismael.

Like a steam liner heading slowly but surely into an iceberg in broad daylight, I found myself yet again somehow agreeing to moderate an upcoming session.

For those of you not in the know, #smchat and #innochat are two of the most vibrant and productive “Social Teams” on the Internet. Each virtual group, meets once a week to openly discuss, debate, and generally advance the thoughts and practices of their respective members in specific areas.

#Smchat meets on Wednesdays and is focused on all things Social Media and Collaboration related, and headed up by the excellent Chris Jones (@sourcePOV).

#Innochat, held on Thursdays, delves into the inner working of corporate innovation practices and theories and is led by the formidable duo of Renee Hopkins (@Renee_Innosight) and Gwen Ismael (@Gwen_Ismael).

Both groups are classic “Social Teams” by my definition – a loose “membership”, focused on achieving a specific purpose, massive in scale, floating leadership, and more – anyone can join by logging into twitter at the appropriate pre-scheduled time, follow the appropriate hash tag, and wait for the moderator to begin the discussion. A quick round of introductions later, and the fireworks begin, with the moderator working hard to try and keep the enthusiastic team members on course, on topic, and on target to drive a useful conclusion to the topic being addressed that week.

It can be a little overwhelming at first – especially as the exchanges are frequently fast and furious – with tons of excellent, valuable comments being traded to and fro at a rate of knots. It’s really a fantastic learning opportunity, and a great way to mingle, interact, and cross swords with some of the best minds on Social Media and Innovation.

I’ve been participating in these two teams for some time now – and have the dubious honor of having moderated one of the most vigorous discussions ever on “What in the World is Web 3.0?” – which pulled in experts from all over the internet to debate what the next iteration of the web would look like.

I knew thus, that it was only a matter of time before I would be cornered into a repeat act, and sure enough it wasn’t long before I found myself cornered like a rattlesnake in a fishbowl.

The two groups have been increasingly finding areas of overlap in recent months, as “Innovation” has increasingly embraced collaboration and socialized processes, and “Social Media” finds innovation as a prime corporate driver for internal adoption and use of its tools.

The inevitable crossing of the two subjects occurs at “Collaborative Innovation” and as Collaborative Innovation is “my thing” – I soon found myself on the receiving end of a flung gauntlet to moderate the first ever “doubleheader” between the two teams.

Both groups have vastly different viewpoints on this topic which is an increasingly relied upon driver of corporate organic growth and new value.  So I’ve decided to split up the two sessions in a way that would release the most amount of value from the accrued expert minds in attendance.

So clear your agendas, fire up the espresso machines and best make it a double – because on Weds, 27 January at 1PM EST, #SMCHAT will be looking at “Collaboration in an Innovation World – focusing on the social issues of how companies can drive participation, collaboration, and motivation for innovation efforts – after all, people are asked to contribute to the creation of new value for a company – but why would they? And how can you structure collaborative efforts to drive the desired results for a company?

Then, for the innovation junkies out there, we follow up on Thurs, 28 January at 12PM EST, when #INNOCHAT tackles “Innovation in a Collaborative World – now that collaboration and socialization of business processes is not only a reality, but a mandatory element of any innovation program worth its weight, how can we inject collaboration into the innovation process? What are the various business models for its use?

Full-on framing posts for each topic will show up during the week, so keep your eyes peeled, and use the comments below to request specific topics, areas, questions or ideas to be addressed!





Innovation Metrics – Part 3

13 08 2008

Innovation Metrics - Part 3

 

Innovation Metrics - Part 3

 

Continuing the thoughts on metrics.. 

3) The Three F’s – When beginning to consider innovation metrics – there are three main “F”’s that you need to measure – Form, Flow, and Function. 

    a. Form – Form is your ability to perform each part of the innovation process.

    b. Flow – Flow is your efficiency at both passing stuff through the individual elements of the process as well as the overall process itself.

    c. Function – Function looks at the program as a whole and its ability to achieve organizational goals, and the organization’s innovation capacity as a whole.

Taking the innovation process you’ve developed in section 2 (see last week’s post) above, you then go through the process figuring out what metrics are most appropriate taking into account the 3 F’s.  For most companies, the metrics will be broadly split into two sections – the form and flow of the pipeline itself – and the function of the program as a whole:

 

Innovation Metrics Worksheet - Form and Flow

Innovation Metrics Worksheet - Form and Flow

Some good examples of Form and Flow metrics: 

1) Problem Identification and Definition stage: 

  • Number of Problems submitted for consideration (form)
  • Number of individual event sponsors recruited (form) 
  • Number of Event Charters defined (form)
  • Number of Events accepted and set up  (flow)
  • Number of Events in each of the key corporate strategic areas (flow) 

2) Idea Collection, Building and Management 

  • Number of ideas/builds collected (form)
  • Number of Event Visitors / Contributors (form) 
  • Number of Idea/Build  Authors (form)
  • Number of ideas reviewed and concluded (flow)
  • Number of Ideas passed through to concept development (flow)

3) Concept/Opportunity Development

  • Number of Prototypes developed (form) 
  • Number of ideas going into Project Management (flow)
  • Potential value of ideas going to Project Management (flow) 
  • Average time idea spends in Concept Development (flow)

4) Project Management

  • Average time to project completion (form) 
  • Number of projects completed versus target (function)
  • Number of projects currently in the pipeline versus target (function)
  • Effective capacity versus capability (function)

5) Initial Launch

  • Target sales/cost reduction/process improvement versus actual (form)
  • Customer satisfaction (form)
  • Customer uptake versus local competitor/alternative (form)
  • Number of Launches proceeding to Expanded Launch (function)
  • Number of Launches failed (function)

6) Revise, Expand, and Re-Launch

  •  Contribution to profit margin from innovations

And for Innovation Function: 

Innovation Metrics Worksheet - Function

Innovation Metrics Worksheet - Function








%d bloggers like this: