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Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 4

Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 4

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Published by Braden Kelley
We are proud to announce our fourth Innovation Excellence Weekly for Scribd. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles from the past week on Innovation Excellence - the world's most popular innovation web site and home to nearly 5,000 innovation-related articles.
We are proud to announce our fourth Innovation Excellence Weekly for Scribd. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles from the past week on Innovation Excellence - the world's most popular innovation web site and home to nearly 5,000 innovation-related articles.

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Published by: Braden Kelley on Oct 26, 2012
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October 26, 2012

Issue 4 – October 26, 2012

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

What I Learned from Faith Popcorn ……………………………...………… Tiffany Vasilchik What exactly is an innovation strategy? ………………………...………….. Rowan Gibson Accelerating Innovation at Dow Corning …………...………….………….…. Braden Kelley Five Super Cool Future Technologies ………………………………..…..……… Greg Satell Three Takeaways from Three Top CEOs ………..………………....……. James Daugherty Innovate Like a Squirrel ………...……………….….…………………………… Scott Bowden Why Creativity will Never be the Same …………………………………. Dimis Michaelides Divergent and Convergent Thinking …..…….….....................................……. Paul Sloane The New 6Ps of Radical Innovation for Large Companies ……..…….. Kevin McFarthing Innovate in Your Own Skin – Not Apple or Google’s …………………..….. Jeffrey Phillips

Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.

“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”

Cover Image credit: innovate or die from Bigstock

What I Learned from Faith Popcorn (and the Next Big Thing)
Posted on October 24, 2012 by Tiffany Vasilchik

I spent over 10 years with Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, the firm named for its eponymous founder and visionary. I met Faith when I hired her to revive the fading margarine category while I was in Brand Management and soon learned that Faith has a gift, not mythical, but intuitive and intelligent, of sensing Trends at their laser’s edge. She understands the nuances of consumer behavior in the culture even before the Trend is apparent to most. . The biggest lesson I learned from Faith was to ask questions! Cultural curiosity is the key to prediction. The ability to understand “the why,” even when the consumer doesn’t, unlocks powerful insights. A longtime business partner once told me that I am most curious person he has ever met. While DNA may play a marginal role, working for Faith reinforced this trait.

Since joining Material ConneXion, I have broadened our innovation consulting methodology from a laser focus on design and materials to include consumer and cultural insights as well as design and materials input and Trends. On every project, we begin with the consumer (the female, since she buys over 80% of household goods; check out Faith’s book called EVEolution, the Eight Truths of Marketing to Women) and keep her in our sights. We are constantly asking what she will want and why. Why will she like this texture, this design, this color, this style? We ask will she use the product outside, will she leave it in the car, will her baby get a hold of it – and a million other questions.

Cross pollination, or the ability to apply insights from one industry to another is a cornerstone of how we create new products and retail environments, often with sustainable materials, for our clients. Some examples of cross pollination? We’ve driven performance in footwear by incorporating industrial piping mesh that’s strong and durable. We’ve enhanced hospitality environments by leveraging a fashion photographer’s method for lighting. We’ve recommended finishes used in the gun industry for accessories.

At Material ConneXion we also look for emerging signals in the global retail environment, in new products and in arts and culture to spark ideas for massive new opportunities that deliver against what the consumer wants and needs. Beats by Dr. Dre, the “Ivy Style” exhibit at FIT and even the Gangham style video can all inspire new opportunities and product ideas.

We also make a specialty out of challenging convention. A shoebox can be a bag (see Puma’s Clever Little Bag), a car can be made of fabric (BMW GINA proof of concept) and PVC can be sustainable (Chilewich tabletop materials reduce laundering and subsequent water use).

With a physical TouchTank of materials to work with at Material ConneXion, we can not only envision what’s next but we can actually create it. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and as I look to the future, I also look back and say Thank you, Faith.

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Tiffany Vasilchik is VP Consulting for MaterialConneXion, where she intersects consulting, marketing, brand strategy and business development with innovation in new product, retail and sustainability as well as materials research. Tiffany was Principal and Director of Consulting Services at BrainReserve, the trend-based marketing consultancy founded by trend expert, author and futurist, Faith Popcorn where she worked with American Express, Colgate, Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, P&G, McDonald’s, McNeil and Visa.

What exactly is an innovation strategy?
Posted on October 20, 2012 by Rowan Gibson

At many companies, the term ‘innovation strategy’ refers simply to an agenda for new product development or a technology roadmap for R&D. This is like picking up a single leaf in the forest and calling it a tree. Innovation strategy is not merely about the next product launch or patent registration. It’s about exactly how your company intends to become (or remain) a world-class innovation champion. Let’s face it, not many organizations have so far managed to build a deep, enduring capability for innovation – one that consistently drives profitable revenue growth and that delivers a strong competitive advantage over the longer term. This should be the highest goal and purpose of any innovation strategy.

The real strategic issue facing every company is this: How are we going to create growth and shareholder value in the future?

Sounds like a simple question. But organizations have had a wide variety answers at their disposal over the last few decades. For some, the solution was going global, or cutting costs, or improving quality. For others, it was raising productivity, or offering the best customer service, or standing out with excellent product design. Today, however, these traditional strategies are running out of steam. They no longer offer very much potential for driving growth and wealth creation over the longer term. As marketing expert Steve Yastrow put it in a recent blog, they have become nothing more than “basic business hygiene – the ‘brushing your teeth’ of running a company.”

There is a growing realization around the world that organizations have only one strategic option left for delivering growth, company value, market share and competitive advantage. And that’s radical innovation – in products, services, technologies, processes, cost structures, marketing strategies, and business models. However, an honest assessment of the business landscape reveals that radical innovators are still very few and far between.

When you pick up a copy of Forbes or BusinessWeek, you inevitably find yourself reading about the usual suspects – a small handful of innovation champions like Apple, Google and Gore. It simply seems incredibly difficult for all those other companies out there to make the transition from innovation laggards to innovation leaders. And that’s why there’s an urgent need right now for organizations to develop a corporate innovation strategy – a blueprint for building, sustaining, and managing an enterprise-wide innovation capability.

Nancy Tennant, co-author of Strategic Innovation, and former global vice president of innovation at Whirlpool, the appliance giant, says that an innovation strategy should encompass “a wide range of actions that assimilate, incorporate, internalize, and imbue the entire fabric or lifeblood of an organization with the mind-set and skills of innovation.”

At the core of this strategy must be a broad-based vision of innovation embedment – a vision that is created and owned by the top team, that is accessible to all levels of the organization, that is both feasible and flexible, that can guide decision making, and that can be clearly and easily communicated. It must be based on a highly systemic view of the organization – a sense of connection, interaction and integration between all of the various parts of the system – where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. And it must enable each and every employee to understand the link between their own individual performance and the attainment of the company’s strategic innovation goal.

Once this vision is in place and widely shared across the company, the next imperative is to turn strategy into action by making the necessary stepwise changes to leadership commitment and accountability, organizational infrastructure, management processes and policies, resource allocation, knowledge management, employee contribution, rewards and recognition systems, competence development programs, measurement and reporting systems, cultural values, and so on. All of these organizational components need to be hardwired into the company’s innovation strategy.

“But stop”, you say. “Is all of this actually possible?” Can companies really make the gargantuan leap from boring to breakout, and from insipid to inspired? Consider an encouraging example.

When Whirlpool’s former CEO Dave Whitwam set out to define his company’s global innovation strategy back in 1999, he chose to call it “Innovation from Everyone and Everywhere.” This was a huge aspiration, considering that at the time Whirlpool had 68,000 employees in 170 countries, as well as 50 manufacturing and technology research centers around the globe. But Whirlpool rose to the challenge, and today the company has become a best-practice model for the embedment of innovation as an enterprise capability across a large, global organization.

The key objective of Whirlpool’s innovation strategy was to help every single employee to think outside the traditional ‘white box’ of home appliances, and imagine exciting, customer-relevant solutions that create new wealth for the company. The outcome has been a stream of breakthrough ideas for products and businesses that have come from all over the Whirlpool organization- ideas that have delivered value to consumers in ways

never before seen either at the company or in the industry. As a result, Whirlpool has seen a steep upturn in its annual revenues from innovative new products. In the three years between 2003 and 2006, for example, these revenues rose from $78 million to $1.6 billion (a figure over twenty times higher). And the whole strategic transition has made a massive contribution to growing Whirlpool’s overall revenues and profits.

Today, the company has well over five hundred projects in its innovation pipeline, representing expected future revenues of $3.5 billion. And, having witnessed the power of Whirlpool’s innovation strategy firsthand, current CEO Jeff Fettig is planning no change of course in the future. He told BusinessWeek, “If we keep innovating we’ll keep growing.”

What Whirpool’s example amply demonstrates is that it is entirely possible to turn an ‘old-line’ industrial organization into a catalyst for continuous, break-the-rules innovation. But it can’t be done piecemeal – an innovation reward program here, a corporate venture fund there, or a few days of brainstorming somewhere else isn’t enough. Rather, a company has to be willing to recalibrate its whole organizational system around the paradigm of innovation. And that is never going to happen unless it develops a wall-to-wall, top-to-bottom, ‘soup to nuts’ innovation strategy.

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Rowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller Innovation to the Core and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson.

Accelerating Innovation at Dow Corning
Posted on October 21, 2012 by Innovation Excellence

Interview – Marjorie Dwane – Dow Corning

I had the opportunity to interview Marjorie Dwane, the Business Development Group Manager in the Innovation Accelerator for Dow Corning’s Specialty Chemicals Business, about open innovation strategy, the importance of an innovation culture, and skills managers will need to achieve innovation success.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. Do you feel that companies need an innovation strategy? If so, where does open innovation fit in?

Innovation needs to be pervasive and an integral part of a company’s culture. It is an inherent component of one’s overall strategy and open innovation is a tactic to help you achieve those strategies.

2. Why did your organization begin its open innovation effort?

For Dow Corning, open innovation allows us greater returns from our strategic technology and business investments. To be competitive today, in our global world, open innovation is critical. Bringing together the talents, strengths and ideas of others delivers positive business results with solutions that are robust and sustainable, to benefit everyone, everywhere.

5. What is the most important culture change for organizations to make in order to support innovation?

For Dow Corning, innovation depends on our people. An innovative corporate culture encourages leaders to think about innovation in a total sense, driven by business imperatives and in response to customer needs. However, it must also push and motivate all employees to engage and think differently allowing the company to harness the creativity and talents of the entire organization. For us each employee freely embraces the spirit of innovation which we leverage for growth.

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

Managers need to have an “innovation mindset” and be thinking holistically about it as innovation enters every aspect of our businesses and jobs. The managers then need to instill and foster this mindset throughout their organizations linking it to company priorities.

8. 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?

It starts at the elementary level where children need sound fundamentals in science, technology, and math. Then we need to encourage them to observe, think and questions so that they continually learn and are energized as they can connect the dots and contribute. The second thing

I want to mention is that businesses need to reach out to students in the K-12 grade level. It can begin with your area schools, building those relationships can be the key to exciting and motivating young students for roles in the workforce of tomorrow.

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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

Five Super Cool Future Technologies
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Greg Satell

The ancient Chinese phrase “may you live in interesting times” was meant as a curse. Unexpected events, for most of history, have been unwelcome. They inevitably brought war, famine and poverty. Today, we have our problems and some of them are pretty bad, like terrorism, global warming and hunger. The big difference is that we have learned how to innovate our way out of trouble. When you start looking at what’s coming up, you can’t help but be optimistic. The power of information technology is that it advances at an exponential pace. Once scarce commodities like storage and processing power are now abundant and that is making possible novel solutions to old problems. New industries like nanotech, robotics and genomics are creating things that would have been science fiction a decade ago.

1. Synthetic Life
In May 2010 Craig Venter and his lab created the first synthetic life form. Starting from scratch, they engineered the DNA (complete with watermarks containing the address to their website), inserted it into a cell and got it to replicate. So what’s the point? Why fool around with the machinery of life? Well, for one thing, it can help solve our energy problems. Algae has a lot of advantages as a biofuel. It can grow in salt water, so it won’t cause the agricultural problems more traditional approaches do. It’s carbon neutral, so is easier on the environment and yields 30 times more energy per acre than traditional biofuels. Exxon has agreed to invest $600 million in Venter’s approach and the US Department of Energy is funding a host of others. As hybrid electric cars and natural gas exploration continue to advance, we might be finished importing oil in a few decades.

2. Private Robots
Robotics have been in the background of everyday life for decades. They build products, sort inventory and search for bombs in the battlefield. However, we scarcely see or interact with them, except maybe for when one goes on a killing spree in the movies. That’s about to change. There are a slew of companies developing robots for personal use. One company, Willow Garage, has developed an open source platform for their PR2 robot that can do things like tidy up the house, go to the fridge and grab the beer of your choice and even play pool. Take a look: President Obama recently created the National Robotics Initiative, which is intended to help fund, coordinate and promote robotics efforts. So we can expect the technology to accelerate quickly.

3. Instant Diagnostics
Imagine you’re on a trip halfway across the world. After a few days, you’re feeling absolutely horrible and you go the a doctor. You walk in, he pricks your finger, diagnoses what’s wrong with you and then prescribes medicine that is suited to your genetic makeup. This all happens in a few minutes. Even before you leave, the incident has been uploaded to both your own digital records so that your doctor at home will be aware of both the disease and the treatment and (without your personal details) it goes to a global database so that it can be compared to other outbreaks in the area. If an epidemic is brewing, preventative measures can be taken. That’s the promise of the Lab on a Chip concept and it’s progressed far enough to even have its own journal. There is also a heavy effort going on to harness t-ray technology to make real life tricorders that can instantly analyze tissues. It might sound like science fiction, but Qualcomm recently funded an X-Prize for it. Technology has brought down costs everywhere else, why not health care?

4. Vertical Farms
In his book, Collapse , scientist Jared Diamond meticulously documented that the failure to provide food and water has been the major cause of the failure of past civilizations. As the world population grows and people increasingly live in cities (estimated 80% by 2050) sustainable agriculture is a growing challenge. One solution to the problem might be vertical farming, an approach championed by Dickson Despommier of Columbia University. The basic idea is to build farms in skyscrapers using hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic technology. There are a lot of advantages to vertical farms. They are up to 30 times more productive than ordinary farms and one 30 story farm could feed approximately 50,000 people. They don’t need pesticides, almost eliminate transportation costs (a major source of energy consumption) and, if paired with Venter’s fuel producing microbes, can be entirely energy self sufficient. For sure, there are still kinks to be worked out, but pilot projects developed by organizations like Plantagon are already underway, so vertical farms might be the norm in as little as a decade or two.

5. Backyard Nukes
Over the past generation, nuclear power has gotten a bad name. First, there was a close call at 3-mile Island, then a genuine disaster at Chernobyl (near where I used to live) and, most recently, a major meltdown at Fukushima. No wonder that the specter of nuclear power makes people nervous. However, it’s important to remember that the technology in those reactors (generation II) is almost half a century old. The new technology coming online (generation IV) is far cleaner because it can burn its own waste (and that of older reactors), has been shown to be impervious to meltdowns and also produces 100-300 times more power. One of the most exciting ideas is backyard nukes, which are small, self regulating units that can be buried underground. They will last for decades and can power tens of thousands of homes carbon free, even in the most remote locations. Established firms like Westinghouse and Toshiba have already developed early versions and new companies like Gen4 Energy and Nathan Myhrvold’s startup TerraPower are working on more advanced designs. Tech Pioneers Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla are also investing heavily in the technology.

A World of Abundance
For all of the problems we have today, it is important to remember two things. First, they are not nearly as bad as what we faced a half century ago; an energy crisis, the cold war and the Club of Rome’s dystopian vision of massive overpopulation and food shortages. Since then, population has doubled, while war and poverty have plummeted. We live longer, are less likely to die a violent death and have an astounding array of products and services that we couldn’t even imagine back then. Second, we have the power to not only solve our problems, but to live in a vastly improved planet in the coming decades. As X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis argues in his new book Abundance (from which I took many of the examples in this post), we can conceivably end scarcity. While you wouldn’t know it from the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy that drives the news we see, things are getting better, not worse. Every generation has more, lives longer, healthier lives and is less likely to experience war and famine. That really is super cool.

image credit: cityfarmer.info

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Greg Satell a consultant who concentrates on media, marketing and innovation. Check out at his site, Digital Tonto and follow him on twitter @digitaltonto

Three Takeaways from Three Top CEOs
Posted on October 18, 2012 by James Daugherty

There are two kinds of CEOs: those that do no more than keep the lights on and those that revolutionize industries. While companies won’t necessarily suffer with the first kind of CEO in the short term, it is the second that exemplifies true leadership — the kind that will keep a company on its toes and always ready for what’s around the corner. And in this economy, it’s that kind of innovative thinking that will keep the lights on.

Here we take a look at a few top CEOs to see if we can glean a few lessons.

1. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
“We build the social technology. They provide the music.”

When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, there were plenty of other social sites to contend with. But the main competitor, MySpace, took the previous decade’s idea that the consumer could “have it all” to mean that users should have as much power as possible to create their own platform. The result was a chaotic, overloaded mess that was at times barely functional.

Zuckerberg recognized that “having it all” meant connecting with all via a streamlined, connected social experience.

The platform he created with Facebook exuded a singularity of vision, swapping MySpace’s disparate, jarring, user-generated design with a pared down, functional system that put the focus on connection rather than on its users’ knowledge of HTML.

As CEO, Zuckberg then used the lens of this core mission and product to find, create and open seemingly endless applications and markets, all around the basic idea that people want to hear from each other more than they want to hear from anyone else.

Lesson Learned: Dig beyond the surface of stated consumer needs to find what’s driving those needs and let that core guide everything you do.

2. Ron Sargent, Staples -- “Get your hands dirty.”
Whether he’s donning that red Staples shirt and spending the day as an associate or emailing customers directly, Ron Sargent isn’t the kind of CEO that isolates himself from the everyday workings of his company.

Since he became CEO in 2002, the company as a whole has become more people-centric, making Staples a better place both to work and shop. While there are notable incentive programs that encourage stores to compete with each other for better customer service, it’s Sargent’s leading from the top that sets the precedence.

And Sargent, like Zuckerberg, does a great job of setting priorities around that customer core.

“Whatever you pick,” Sargent says, “make sure you clearly communicate the goals and objectives across the company, and that you have the ability to execute on the plan. Keep it simple—to a handful of priorities—otherwise you can get distracted and add complexity. I call it complexity creep.”

Lesson Learned: Make your priorities simple, communicate clearly, and stick to your core focus.

3. Jeff Bezos, Amazon
On interview questions: “Tell me about something that you have invented. Their invention could be on a small scale–say, a new product feature or a process that improves the customer experience, or even a new way to load the dishwasher. But I want to know that they will try new things.”

It’s not a surprising move, as Jeff Bezos himself invented the concept of selling books online — something no one thought customers would want. But what he did next was almost more innovative: allowing affiliates to market all kinds of goods on Amazon.

This was a key pivot for Amazon away from a producer of products to a company that hosted, supported, and marketed the infrastructure that would almost single handedly invent e-commerce. The same can be said of Amazon’s cloud-hosting services, which support companies as big as Netflix, and even for the Kindle, which, though a product itself, can also be seen as a revolutionary book platform.

Lesson Learned: The product that made you big may not always be the core of your business.

From Mark Zuckerberg to Ron Sargent to Jeff Bezos, the top CEOs have plenty to teach us. And yet, every lesson seems to come back to finding your core and keeping it simple…on a global scale.

image credit: shutterstock

James Daugherty enjoys marketing, social media, and technology. He is the outreach coordinator at Distilled Creative. Visit his blog and connect on Twitter.

Innovate Like a Squirrel
Posted on October 24, 2012 by Scott Bowden

In a recent ode to the wonders of the month of October, the noted Georgia environmental author Charles Seabrook writes about the brilliant Autumn colors and flurry of activity by wildlife as the days shorten and temperatures drop. One of Seabrook’s observations struck me as particularly interesting to the field of innovation.

Seabrook notes that October is a period of “hoarding and gorging, where countless creatures try to put away enough food to see them through the cold months.” Gray squirrels, he writes, bury acorns in the ground for later use, but “[m]any of the acorns that squirrels bury will not be recovered and will sprout new oaks.” Seabrook also notices blue jays engaging in the same activity, which results in the unexpected planning of a tree when a blue jay forgets where a seed was planted.

For the innovation practitioner, the closest parallel to this activity occurs when we review a set of new ideas with a team. In these types of sessions we almost always end up with a surplus of ideas, sometimes because one idea may look more promising than another from a Return on Investment (ROI) standpoint or because one idea may more closely align with a larger initiative underway within the enterprise. Inevitably we are left with a list of “deferred” ideas that were good enough to be considered by the innovation team but did not make the final cut and thus fell out of the innovation pipeline. These ideas usually end up in a sort-of idea graveyard, where they reside on a spreadsheet and may be revisited at a later date, though usually by that time a whole new set of ideas an initiatives is being considered so the old ideas seem even less relevant.

We should treat our deferred innovation ideas with the mindset that they are like buried acorns with the potential to sprout a great oak given time. We should revisit these ideas on a regular basis and assess them in light of all the different variables that could have changed since the initial review. For example, the underlying technology supporting the deferred idea could have changed, which would make the idea more viable. Likewise, business conditions or customer wants and needs could have evolved to the point where the old idea makes more sense to pursue now than it did at the earlier date. It is easy to discard the old and constantly focus on generating new approaches, but sometimes there is value in revisiting an old idea with a new light. After all, there was something about that idea that made us consider it in the first place. Perhaps when we are reviewing innovation ideas and we determine not to pursue a particular topic, instead of marking that item as “deferred,” we should mark it as “acorn” so we are reminded of the importance of revisiting that idea at a future date to see if it can provide immediate sustenance (like a squirrel returning in the winter for a meal) or something that grows even more promising over time (like a mighty oak emerging from the soil).

Source: Charles Seabrook, “October is a time for color – and hoarding,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (October 6, 2012), p. D2.

image credit: jberg

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Scott Bowden works on Innovation Programs for IBM Global Services

Why Creativity will Never Be the Same Again
Posted on October 24, 2012 by Dimis Michaelides

Trends in creativity and innovation
“Marketing? How can marketing be creative?”.

This is what a top research chemist asked me in a creativity workshop I ran in the early eighties for the research department of an agricultural chemicals multinational. He said it in all sincerity after I mentioned that the week before I had facilitated a similar workshop for the marketing department. For the researcher it was simply inconceivable that marketing, or anything outside the invention of new products, could be creative.

The world has moved on however. Thomas Edison is credited as inventing the method of invention and we might call him the father of private companies’ R & D departments. For many years after Edison the embodiment of creativity in organizations was R & D. Later on, in the early twentieth century, it became clear that good marketing helps sell products and that it is worth investing creative energy there too. In post-war times, computer systems allowed organizations to deeply re-engineer their operations and we found much value there too. Then creative (and ethical) accountants developed new ways of looking at company figures, to help company organization and operations through activity based costing and other such systems.

Today we recognize that creativity is possible and desirable in every nook and cranny of every organization and that every person is capable of delivering useful novelty to her organization. The connected world is making possible the application of hundreds of creative new solutions to almost everything on a daily basis, fundamentally changing the ways we do business and interact with other people. In particular crowdsourcing allows for willing people to supply free information and skills in all areas and opens new ways for funding new business ventures.

Perceptions of personal creativity have evolved too. We now recognize that creativity is not an area reserved for a small elite of gifted geniuses, but a set of skills available to everybody to develop. And neuroscience is opening up areas of research into the human mind and what defines its creative potential that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago.

We are grappling with the relative importance of individual and team creativity, while acknowledging that no innovation can ever be realized fully by a single individual. Beyond individual and team we are recognizing the importance of culture and climate in fostering innovation in organizations. We are expanding our studies of the creative unit to include communities, cities, societies and whole countries. And the public sector joins in and so do NGOs. Social innovation extends creative practice further into areas not often touched by the private sector.

Our creativity is expanding fast and so is our knowledge and understanding of it. So here is my safe prediction: in ten years time our conversations on creativity will be broader, richer and better informed than today and so creativity will never be the same again.

image credit: insidertrends.com

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Dimis Michaelides, Managing Director at Performa Consulting, is global business consultant and keynote speaker on The Art of Innovation. His book, The Art of Innovation: Integrating Creativity in Organizations, was published in 2007.

Divergent and Convergent Thinking
Posted on October 24, 2012 by Paul Sloane

How can we become more creative? Let’s start by thinking about our thinking.

Most organizations want to become more agile. Leaders talk about the need for innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Meanwhile employees bemoan the difficulties of getting things changed, of getting new ideas approved and implemented. How can we overcome these roadblocks?

Let’s start by considering how we think at work and in particular by contrasting two styles of thinking – divergent and convergent. When we use divergent thinking we can imagine any possibility, head off in any direction and deliberately diverge from the conventional. Criticism and judgment are temporarily suspended while we explore possibilities. When we use convergent thinking we are trying to narrow down options to one or more preferred choices. We use analysis, criticism, logic, argument and reasoning to arrive at a selection. We eliminate less attractive possibilities in order to choose a way forward.

The two styles of thinking are very powerful when used sequentially but much less so when they are mixed. An effective brainstorm or ideation meeting consists of two phases. In the first phase we use divergent thinking to go beyond reason and to generate many ideas; no criticism is allowed. We build on the ideas of others and run with outrageous notions just to see where they lead. In the second phase we use convergent thinking to evaluate the ideas against agreed criteria in order to select the best options to action. This combination works well. But if we allow convergent thinking to mix with divergent thinking then new ideas will often be strangled at birth. It is easy to find fault with partly formed notions so they are quickly eliminated and only safe options remain.

Which kind of thinking is used more often at your place of work? I suspect that nearly all your meetings are dominated by convergent thinking. People naturally tend to be analytical and judgmental. The challenge is how to foster and allow divergent thinking. If you float an outlandish idea in a meeting there is a good chance that you will be ridiculed for your efforts.

The answer is to structure the meeting in such a way that for a period divergent thinking is not just allowed, it is compulsory. You could start by defining the topic and the general business constraints that apply. Then the meeting leader sets a period of say 15 minutes during which only divergent thinking is allowed. You might just ask people to contribute ideas or you might use a formal brainstorm method such as similes, scamper or pass the parcel. The key thing is to stop convergent thinking and to force divergent thinking – this can be done as a type of business game with penalties for early criticism of ideas. I have been in meetings where we used water pistols to squirt people who found fault with ideas during the divergent phase. Once we have a healthy selection of creative ideas we can use a structured form of convergent thinking. We can constructively assess the proposals against our decision criteria to select and review the most promising. Then we turn the best ideas into action points.

Observe the thinking style that is used in your next meeting. If we start by acknowledging that we are using convergent thinking too soon and too often then we can put in place actions to enforce some divergent thinking in order to boost our creativity and business agility.

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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

The New 6Ps of Radical Innovation for Large Companies
Posted on October 22, 2012 by Kevin McFarthing

How do large companies pursue radical innovation? You know, the kind of new product that changes or creates a market. There is a school of thought that says large companies just can’t do it, that any new market disruption comes from an upstart startup. There are, of course, exceptions to this generalization, for example Apple.

Mostly though, large companies have an inbuilt need to pursue innovation in markets and fields with which they are already familiar, and to protect their current positions rather than disrupt or cannibalize. They don’t have the same absolute focus, passion and decision-making speed that characterize small innovative companies.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’ve been working with the innovative market research agency Brainjuicer on the challenge of creating radical innovation in large companies. Other commentators have written recently about why large companies struggle with it. Amongst them were Jorge Barba and Greg Satell. Tim Kastelle wrote about why startups have the advantage. Ralph Ohr discussed evolutionary and revolutionary innovation; large companies are set up to improve the world as it is (evolution) rather than how it could be (revolution). All of these complement John Kearon’s article on marketing science causing the death of innovation.

Maxwell Wessel explained that big companies are set up to deliver profit through operational efficiency. This is not necessarily a short term problem, as long as reality matches expectations, but is dangerous in the longer term. All may not be lost; Scott Anthony wrote an article in September’s HBR Magazine entitled “The New Corporate Garage”, laying out some cogent arguments in favour of large companies playing an even greater role in the development of innovation.

It’s in that context that I’d like to propose a template that I think will help, the “6Ps of Radical Innovation”. I’ll give a summary in this blog post, and then follow up with more description in future ones.

First of all, what does “Radical Innovation” mean? In my view it is “innovation that significantly alters the dynamics of a market by changing the behaviour of users and converting them to the new offering; or enables new behaviour”. An example is movie rental. The “job to be done” in Clayton Christensen’s terms, doesn’t change; a viewer wants to rent a movie. The change in behaviour is that they don’t walk down to Blockbusters to rent a physical copy; they subscribe to Netflix and download it. Another example is apps and mobile phones. Smartphones enable new behaviour with apps that just didn’t exist before.

So here are the 6Ps, with just some of the questions to ask:

1. PERSPECTIVE – do you make space in your portfolio for bets on radical innovation? Do you talk about big innovation but ignore the resource, competence and time needed to deliver it? Do you know where you want to compete, and over which time frame? Do you stretch possibilities with Open Innovation? Is your portfolio balanced on the dimensions of time, technology and market, and stretched in terms of ambition?

2. POTENTIAL – do you still demand all the facts before launch? Do you use evolutionary criteria to assess revolutionary innovation? Do you iterate and learn fast? And then get to market fast?

3. PROTOTYPE – do you demand “right first time” before exposing innovation to customers? Or do you rapidly experiment, iterate and learn? What criteria are used to design and evaluate prototype tests? Are you able to look for behaviour change?

4. PARTITION – do you separate radical innovation with a different route to market from “business as usual”? Do you protect it from the pressure of short-term delivery? Do you give it time and space to reach payback?

5. PERSISTENCE – do you adjust your targets as you progress and learn? Do passionate people get the sustained support they need? Does your portfolio approach help you make the right bets? How quickly do you give up? Do you have the right balance between conviction and stubbornness?

6. PEOPLE – is “failure” acceptable? What’s in it for somebody to move out of a standard career path? Do you identify and support intrapreneurs? Do you recruit for diversity?

None of these stands alone. For example, an iterative use of prototypes and test markets will give much better information on the potential of radical innovation. The 6Ps should be taken as a whole.

In summary, consideration of the 6Ps will widen the view of large companies and help them to have a greater chance of successfully implementing radical innovation. I’ll add more to this over the next few weeks.

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Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.

Innovate in Your Own Skin – Not Apple or Google’s
Posted on October 19, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips

In case you’re wondering, I often apologize to my clients when I use references to Apple, Google, 3M or Proctor & Gamble. I apologize because I think that these firms are overused as innovation references, and in that overuse we build up these firms as the arbiters of innovation success.

There are reasons why we talk about these firms and focus so much of our attention on these firms. First, they are relatively successful innovators over a long period of time. Second, they receive a lot of press and market coverage based on their success, much of which they themselves generate.

But for many nascent innovators there are dangers as we define an “innovation royalty”. Some may think that innovation is possible only for a small handful of visionary firms, or that Apple and 3M have the only innovation “secret sauce”. Others may believe that innovation is OK for some firms but not possible or necessary for others, depending on geography, industry or competition. Still others may believe that to innovate, they need to emulate what these firms do. And to me, the last danger may be the biggest problem of them all.

You can’t innovate like Apple.

Many firms we work with want to understand what makes Apple so special, and they want to know if there are “secrets” to Apple’s success that they can copy or emulate. I’ll often tell them “not unless you’ve got a Steve Jobs lying around”. Apple’s success is due in great part to a potentially unreplaceable visionary leader, who had incredible foresight combined with marketing genius. But more to the point, you don’t want to innovate like Apple. Their methods, their style, their approach is probably different from how you work, your culture and what your customers need and want. Note that Apple has a different innovation “style” than Google – in fact they are almost polar opposites, and 3M’s methods differ from both Apple’s and Google’s. Here’s a place where “best practices” becomes dangerous – you can’t emulate Apple’s innovation style, but you do want to emulate Apple’s innovation success.

Innovating in your own skin

Rather than don the style or “skin” of a different firm, what you need to do is discover what makes your firm interesting, unique and different, and capitalize on your strengths. Then, you need to embed innovation activities, methods and cultural bias in the organization to support and sustain your strengths. There are innovation “best practices” you can deploy, but most of them have to do with changes to routine issues like compensation, rewards, training, staff availability and so forth. Ultimately, your innovation approach needs to be your own, based on your strategies and goals, aligned to your vision, and bounded by your existing and potential skills and capabilities.

Why would you want to mimic Apple? Does it make sense for your team to pretend it is Apple for a day or so, only to be confronted with the realities of the business when they return to their regular jobs? No! You need to understand the existing strengths and capabilities, and define a

path that takes you where your firm wants to go, and build innovation skills and methods into the fabric of the organization. In this way, using the fabric analogy, you will weave an entirely new culture that embraces innovation, and shapes innovation in its own way.

Learn from, don’t emulate or imitate

Should we learn from Apple, Google and so forth? Absolutely, but what we need to do is distill the reasons, characteristics and factors that make these firms so successful at innovating and understand how those factors can be deployed in our organizations. Apple’s has been about a small team of visionary leaders who seek to disrupt the market with improve customer experience. 3M’s vision is about constant investment in new R&D brought to market very quickly. Google’s is about bubbling up ideas from everyone. What’s constant across these approaches is commitment, an engaged culture and sponsorship. Everything else is different! Don’t worry about imitating Apple, or Google, or some other firm. Understand the basics and make innovation your own. You will never be Apple, just as Apple (thankfully) could never be IBM or Compaq. Start with the innovation basics, understand your strengths and differentiators, and carve your own path. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it doesn’t differentiate you and it may not accelerate change at all.

As we used to say in Texas, the only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and roadkill. You can’t copy the leaders, and you don’t want to. Understand innovation basics, methods, models and cultural phenomena, internalize them, and make them your own. This is where most firms fall down – they can’t make the tools and methods their own. They always seem foreign, as if they are wearing someone else’s clothes. The tools and methods, the approach and goals need to be cut to fit the firm that you are.

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Jeffrey 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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