Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Innovation Programs are designed to focus everyone's attention on identifying and implementing innovative ideas in a specific area. They are also designed to encourage everyone to keep their eyes and ears open for new ideas, including those that might be outside their direct work area or scope of responsibility.The airline industry is well known for going beyond the simple "suggestion box" idea to implement more fully developed innovation programs:
program, called "Ideas in AAction", resulted in over 17,000 ideas and savings of over $83 million USD. The famous story highlighting the success of this program is the "black olive" story. A flight attendant noticed that no one was eating the black olives in the salads and suggested that this item be eliminated, which resulted in thousands of dollars saved.
also implemented an internal innovation program. The famous story from this program, again was about a cost savings involving food. A flight attendant noticed the piece of lettuce that was used to decorate their food was often wilted and unappetizing. The Airline removed the lettuce leaves and saved over $1 million annually.
, faced with higher fuel costs, asked everyone to identify ideas that would save the company $5 per day. Thousands of ideas were received resulting in $23 million in savings.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Creativity is a fugitive to ownership. It is located in the brain supra 'fuzzy' center and we are invited to travel, poke and dwell on its edges. Welcome to the unrelated edges of creativity.
Being on the edge is better off than being 'left field' if you get my drift. Based on this metaphor I prepared a short list of what to seek for and steer from in order to tap and grab a piece of creativityland.
Intangible. Just the name itself makes a lot of people queasy and don't we know, how an uncomfortable a term, a place, to be this is for clients, bosses and number crunchers. They would rather all steer clear off and usually most, do. But us, as designers, we need to set up camp right in its midst.
The mind works wonderfully in that area. But fuzzy is not a 'tasker'. Nah, you need to become an imagination wanderer. Anything attempted to do a 'hard' focus and the elusive fuzzy idea wanders off nowhere to be found.
So set the cruise to no defined space. In the next new world - it's GPS (Global Positioning Systems) that will drive cars. In our world, it's the fuzziness a.k.a. the state of unclear picture (yet) that drives us to creativity.
How does one wander? Certainly not by sitting by waiting for 'it' to happen. You need to drift away… in milliseconds if need be!
Was there a design that you've long longed to start? Then get going. Was there a book that you just wish you had time to read? Read some. Do you need to catch up with your mail or have a lunch with a friend? Or cleaning up your desk or do laundry? Do it!
Impatience is the absolute enemy. So beware.
Practicing objectivity, from experience, works 100% of time. For example, I have this assignment don't know where to begin. I know where I gotta end - no clue as to how to get there. I got this fuzzy picture but feel completely unsure of its worth.
Ah! Voilà! Perfect time to let my intuition run wild BUT having someone to soundboard 'it' with. You need a good listener that will ask the right question. When I'm asked the right question - the wandering stops dead in tracks and it's amazing to watch the tumbling over of thoughts that I was not even aware were so fully 'formed'. Pay attention to indifference and turned off signals from the listener. If these arise… ciao you need to go do some more fuzzy wanderings.
If there is interest - perhaps even more questions - start taking notes NOW because something is definitely happening. The 'threading' of the concept emerges; I call it the back burner activity. Unknowingly, you were already playing with loose ends that the question forces to fetch from what you have read and seen recently to what your talent and experience have stored in memory.
If you are alone - you need to discipline your mind to answer the client / project objectives with the same kind of overflowing spontaneity. Creativity is part intangible fuzzy unstructured leading to rational logic structuring.
No structure no tangible results!
You can help the 'back burner' activity by playing. One of my colleague after we had an intense brain storming session will disappear, charged with seeding ideas and chill and recollect himself. Then he always comes up with stuff to show. Every time I ask him: "What are you doing?" invariably his reply is: "I'm (just) playing". His attitude is telling: by 'playing' it implies that he does not try to deliver something - or force a design onto one of those ideas - or nailing 'it'.
I realized that I do exactly the same. Different ways. But I will do completely unrelated stuff just to get my mind 'off it' for a little time. I have learned through experience that most of my best ideas and concepts form in the 'backstage' or the 'back burning' space of my mind.
So give yourself some space to play TODAY.
Start right when you go in fuzzy wanderings. Through in bits and pieces (logo, color, forms, pictures, graphic, illos, fonts) whatever you like, together in a .psd file. Organize each bit in its own layer - best its own directory. And start playing. Don't try to SOLVE anything. Just have fun and engross yourself with what you like to do most. Also, don't judge the results and set neither limits nor restrictions.
Any interesting idea or flow or direction you see? Make a new directory or save a new copy numbered so you know which iteration is the last 'best' you liked - make a lot of different layers - don't throw anything out.
Don't use too much layer masking because these prevents exploration. Accept to do the different filter and blending options permanently to each layer - don't stack these - what I do is identify each with a shortcut of filter or command I have used.
When coaching the most repetitive comments I make are:
"Stop being trigger happy" (doing things too quickly - sometimes a great idea will come from a 'mistake' or how the copied layer lands. Take time to look and assess slowly. Think fast act slow. 'Have you made a new layer or directory (if many layers are linked or related) before making a new command?' and lastly 'Have you saved?'. Someone once told me that they save work every couple of hours - well if you haven't crash and lost work - I guess its hard to appreciate this. Keep in mind time is of the essence… and redoing 3 hours worth of work to be the same… is at best, impossible.
The emerging mock up should be the basis to scrutinize the intangible and if, that played up mock up is a corollary of the objectivity (sounding board) process… you are actually threading a concept.
For myself, once the concept, which btw is NOT a single idea but the assemblage of many that are hinged together logically. Simply it makes sense. Meaning there is something directing the mind to see the logic behind. Voilà! You have reached the Eureka moment. Once the structure is identified, it's almost down to filling the blanks, like a colleague said recently.
The 'thread' is conductive to staging the intangible into the tangible. Once you have this tenuous line that you see weaving itself, you can say the story. You can articulate the concept. It becomes a storyboard. A storyboard can be ported across many media which ever is required by the project or client's brief.
When you arrive to this stage you are in fact entering 'production'. Production per se is the rendering stage. When intangible (concept) becomes tangible. Keep in mind that each media has constraints which command refinements and adaptation (forget about cookie-cutter design solutions that are more decoration than problem solving) but having nailed 'it' expect creativity to be flowing.
Since creativity seems to require the capacity to risk all to encompass 'it' and get to the new and uncharted then maybe 'cutting edge' is not so much about WHAT we design but moreso cultivating BEING on the cutting edge.
Software used: Adobe Photoshop
--Color added by using the Magic Brush Tool selection and the Fill Tool.
--Layers added with varying opacity.
--Copy of bicycle with Gaussian and Motion Blur.
--Copy of bicycle with Bevel and Emboss.
--Dark Gray background.
|ORIGINAL PICTURE||AFTER EDITS|
Monday, September 27, 2004
A consistent thinker is a thoughtless person, because he conforms to a pattern; he repeats phrases and thinks in a groove.
Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns to look at things in a different way.
Edward De Bono
Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things.
Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.
When all think alike, then no one is thinking.
Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.
Minds are like parachutes: they only function when open.
Thomas R Dewar
For sometime now I have been thinking of changing the focus of my "Innovation" Blog - it will primarily be an innovation blog dealing with creativity and the like - I will also be including "design" as one of things I talk about - basically show some of my work and try and solicit freelance work as I have been doing graphic design etc since a long time - I had also setup a website with a design focus at asidedesigns.blogspot.com and use that primarily to showcase projects that I have done so far.
The blogging world is also quite active with design discussions and I love visiting websites like www.designobserver.com and www.kottke.org and www.graphic-design.com and www.k10k.net I am also working on various software like Adobe Photoshop, Maya, CorelDraw etc. Since as long as I can remember - I have been drawing. Introduction to the computer - which for me was in the year 1998-99 - started experimentations with various design/drawing softwares. I am also currently looking to buy my very own Graphics Tablet/Digitizer since the touchpad on my laptop isn't the best drawing substitute to a pencil or a brush. Adobe Illustrator is my choice of software to be used with the graphics tablet and the experimentation horizons never seemed larger!
So this blog changes its focus from this post onwards.
I will still be doing the innovation "news" posts like I have been doing regularly - I will probably toy with the design of the blog more often - tweaking mostly. I will also be adding a list of "design" sites I visit regularly apart from the innovation blogs and I will be posting whatever work I do too!
Thursday, September 23, 2004
5 Reasons to be Innovative
Corporate innovation is all the rage these days and most better selling business books at least address the issue of innovation. Nevertheless, less bandied about are reasons for companies to become innovative. After all, turning your company into an innovative company requires substantial changes in operations, changing the way employees do jobs, substantial investment in idea management tools and more. It is a lot of work and a lot of money. What are the benefits? Here are five:
1) Our own research has shown companies can expect an increase of 5to 10% or more on pre-tax profits by implementing an innovation culture combined with a cross-enterprise idea management tool (youcan even check your own RoI - return on ideas - with the ROI Calculator at http://www.jpb.com/jenni/roi_calculator.php). A study by Arthur D. Little and BDI (Association of German Industry) on innovation excellence also found that: "On average innovation excellence can increase the EBIT (earnings before interest & tax) margin by 3.6 per cent while front-runners achieve up to 11.4 %increase."
2) People take pride in working for companies that are perceived as being innovative and dynamic. If your employees take pride in working for your company, you can expect more loyalty and higher levels of productivity.
3) When people become accustomed to thinking creatively, they will see problems as challenges waiting to be solved rather than disasters that need to be blamed upon someone else. When people focus on problem solving rather than blame sharing, problems are solved faster and more effectively. And that translates into more efficient operations.
4) Becoming more innovative also makes your organisation more flexible. The organisation will readily be able to come up with new ideas to accommodate changes in the market. Your company will be ableto review threats, devise solutions and implement them faster than before. With today's rapidly changing market trends, such flexibility is critical.
5) Innovative companies make the news. Innovative companies get talked about. Managers at innovative companies are invited to speak at top conferences. In short, being an innovative company results in great public relations and substantial press coverage, all of which is terrific publicity. Moreover, that publicity tends to build upon itself: good publicity generates more publicity with relatively little effort on your part.
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Baumgartner
Excerpted from: PUBLICATION: Report 103
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
If Apple teaches us anything, it's that effective innovation is about more than building beautiful cool things. A few thoughts for innovating well in your own shop:
Not All Innovation Is Equal
Technical innovation will earn you lots of adoring fans (think Apple). Business-model innovation will earn you lots of money (think Dell).
Innovate for Cash, Not Cachet
If your cool new thing doesn't generate enough money to cover costs and make a profit, it isn't innovation. It's art.
Don't Hoard Your Goodies
Getting to market on time and at the right price is vital. If that means licensing your idea to an outside manufacturer or marketer, do it.
Innovation Doesn't Generate Growth. Management Does
If you covet awards for creativity, go to Hollywood. Managers get rewarded for results, which come from customers.
Attention Deficit Has No Place Here
Every innovation worth doing deserves your commitment. Don't leap from one new thing to another. If your creation doesn't appear important to you, it won't be important to anyone else.
Monday, September 20, 2004
South Africa's Technological Innovation Imperative
So what drives growth? This apparently simple question has been the subject of debate for decades but there is no question that in the long run, an economy cannot grow unless technological progress occurs. The role that technological progress plays in driving growth is most evident in the way in which it contributes to competitiveness. Like increased competitiveness at the company level, which can translate into greater profitability, increasing country competitiveness generally results in substantial benefits such as increased per-capita income growth - the very target of many of South Africa's upliftment policies.
It is interesting to note that when country competitiveness is plotted against country innovation capacity, there is a distinct linear relationship - countries with a greater innovation capacity are also more competitive. So if growth is a function of competitiveness and if competitiveness is a function of innovation and technological progression, why is South Africa not increasing its innovation capacity to drive growth?
The value of innovation is underestimated.
Even when innovation activity is acknowledged to improve market position, the perception that "costs are too high" remains. It is more likely that the underlying reason why innovation is not a core part of company strategy is not that "the costs are too high" but that company decision makers don't know if innovation investment will yield suitable returns - the risk factor.
After all, would the costs of innovation ever be considered "too high" if each investment added an additional 30% to the bottom line? So, if companies had more certainty and access to resources, would they innovate more? What if market and demand risk could be better managed? Yet to accomplish this, companies and individuals engaging in a process that begins with an idea and ends in the market must understand and manage a myriad of technical, legal, financial, market and other business issues.
Finance must also be found to fund the process. Given this complexity, it is no wonder that technological innovation and the process of commercialization is so under-represented in our economy. Innovators, be they individuals or companies, need to be strongly supported as the consequence of poor innovation management is failure, which only serves to support the perception that innovation is "costly."
This is exactly why we need to improve innovation management and to develop a network of innovation support centres and technology and business incubators. Innovation support centres are "translators" of technological competence into marketable applications and market need into the supply of underlying technology competence and they focus on understanding the techno-market interface.
The result is a knowledge base that
a) helps to more accurately understand market and demand risks;
b) operates networks with technology developers, industrialists, legal practitioners, financial service providers, market researchers, financiers and the like to provide solutions.
If we want to grow faster on the back of increasing competitiveness, we need more innovation in our economy. Innovation needs to form the backbone of company strategy and not just be the focus of one-liners in business plans and mission statements.
While government support in the roll-out of innovation support centres is growing, the reality is that industry, academia, government and the labour movements need to form partnerships to drive an innovation mindset. One area of glaring weakness is in skills development where a true partnership between these stakeholders will result in the identification of the skills of tomorrow, provide the training necessary and offer jobs to those more adequately trained to meet those needs. We need to expand the size of our economic pie.
Friday, September 17, 2004
What Steve Wozniak Learned From Failure
The Apple II was a hit. The Cloud Nine universal remote was not. Here's what Steve Wozniak learned about creativity, and what it means for his latest venture. An excerpt from Juice: The Creative Fuel that Drives World-Class Inventors.
Failure is the rule rather than the exception, and every failure contains information. One of the most misleading lessons imparted by those who have reached their goal is that the ones who win are the ones who persevere. Not always. If you keep trying without learning why you failed, you'll probably fail again and again. Perseverance must be accompanied by the embrace of failure. Failure is what moves you forward. Listen to failure.
But there are different kinds of failure. Sometimes, failure tells you to give up and do something else entirely. Other times, it tells you to try a different approach, a new route to the top of the mountain. Or it may tell you to make a detour. Sometimes, it tells you that you need help. Sometimes, it doesn't seem to tell you anything. Linda Stone, a former executive at both Apple Computer and Microsoft, recalls a conversation she participated in with Steve Wozniak and Dean Kamen, perhaps the two best-known living inventors.
"I'll never forget it," Stone says. "They just were talking about all their failures, and how they both felt like failures." They were almost bragging about various laboratory fiascoes and catastrophes. Given their success, this seemed extraordinary. According to Stone, the conversation occurred just before an awards ceremony. "They were both being celebrated," she says. So Wozniak and Kamen clearly weren't talking about their failures as a way of feeling sorry for themselves. Rather, they were identifying with a thinking strategy they both had in common. "Every failure is a learning experience," concludes Stone, "and it should be seen as part of progress, rather than seeing it as the enemy."
SOURCE: HBS WorkingKnowledge
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Innovation Needs to be Promoted
Most companies adjust their business plans to focus on efficiency and cost reduction during economic downturns and on revenue growth during economic upturns. Unfortunately, some firms forget to adjust to changing conditions and quickly lose ground to competitors. With the economy now changing for the better, will your company be a winner or a loser?
A common error in business planning during an economic upturn is to forget about innovation. A lack of innovation leads to:
- Margin erosion: Without innovation, similar products crowd the marketplace leading to differentiation solely on price. Price competition in turn erodes margins until only the low-cost producers can survive.
- Market-share erosion: Design and manufacturing lead times continue to decline, resulting in look-alikes or work-alikes appearing in record times. Any market share gained from being "first-to-market" will be quickly lost.
- Brand erosion: Without innovation, your product blends in with the competition's. If your product is lost in a sea of look-alikes, you have no opportunity to build or strengthen your brand.
Innovation is the hallmark of successful companies such as 3M, Avaya and Intel. Look for firms that lead or create entirely new product segments on a regular basis and you will find:
- Innovation culture: Innovation stems from creativity and taking chances. If you already have a creative team of workers, you must inspire them to innovate. Innovation is based on a series of trials and errors -- no one gets it right the first time. In addition to rewarding staff who get it right, you must also reward staff who get it wrong. If you punish failure, staff will become risk averse and innovation will subside.
- Innovation processes: Innovation has to be a valued and respected activity in the organization, not just something performed during downtime. Creative juices don't always flow on command, so allocating one "creative hour" a week is the wrong approach. Instead, establish formal processes that foster innovation, have the support of management and reward those who participate.
- Outside the box: Although the phrase "think outside the box" is worn, many companies still place so many restrictions on the creative processes they limit themselves to evolution, not revolution. Skillful facilitation of creative brainstorming sessions will let staff explore the limits of their creativity while still applying their efforts to commercially viable products or services.
- Corporate flexibility: To the surprise of many corporations, the most creative ideas often don't come from the marketing or sales departments. Creativity and inspiration can come from anywhere in the corporation, so innovation processes must cross all departments. As well, the best ideas don't always come from the same people, so restructuring to create a single innovation team is the wrong approach.
- Supportive leadership: Just placing the word "innovation" in the corporate mission statement does little to create an innovative corporation. Chief executives should know that fostering a culture of innovation starts with them, from actual financial commitments to actively placing innovation on the executive agenda.
If your company isn't an innovator today, it's not too late to start. Tapping the ideas and creativity of your employees can help you seize opportunities created by economic upturns. A regular stream of product or service innovations will let your salespeople answer the question "What's new?" with a new product, not just a new price.
SOURCE: London Free Press
Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003
Monday, September 13, 2004
Concern for loved ones can be a powerful innovation tool
Politely but very insistently, the television ad asks if you or someone you know experiences nervousness and discomfort in social situations. Of course, you personally neither palpitate nor sweat in public places. But do you have a close and troubled friend who fits that description? Perhaps he or she should consider taking a special pill.
Or consider your aging parents. Their energy isn't what it once was, and keeping in touch across time zones is increasingly awkward. Having them on e-mail would be great. Alas, they're stubborn technophobes. You're not confident you can reliably get them online. What should you do?
To download the PDF of the complete article, go here http://www.technologyreview.com/view/article.asp?p=12126
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Trust and Innovation - Survey
Trust and Innovation: What's the linkage?
New Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=81238616175
Most of us involved in innovation believe that "trust" is necessary for ongoing, significant innovation efforts. While it is easy to assume that trust is needed, it is not so easy to understand exactly what that means. In pursuing innovation in your organizations, you have probably experienced many situations where trust--between colleagues or between individuals and their management or at the organzational level--was a factor in behavior or results.
Unlike the hard data that can be captured about the impact of a new product development process, the impact of trust (or lack thereof) tends to be intuitive, perceived and captured anecdotally. In an endeavor to gain a sense of the social agreement or collective perception about the importance of trust, we have created a survey which we would like for you to respond to at the link shown above.
We believe your views as practitioners of innovation will be particularly enlightening in understanding this important but somewhat fuzzy subject. Because this survey focuses on organizational innovation, please only respond if you are in an organization with at least 10 employees.
We appreciate your participation in the survey, which will also tell you how you can receive the report when it is completed.
Thanks again for your assistance.
Joyce Wycoff, Ruth Ann Hattori, Charlie Prather, Kathie Thomas, InnovationNetwork and the Global Innovation Study Group (G.I.S.T.)
Don't forget to take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=81238616175
Innovation More Important Than Capital
Emerging technological advancement should be complimented by proper innovation to reap benefits, stated Minister of state (independent charge) of the Department of Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal. He was speaking at the Emerging Technology 2004 event organized by CII.
"Broadly, there are three kinds of technologies that are going to emerge in future -Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Geo technology. Innovation is the need of the hour and it would go hand in hand with cutting edge technologies. Capital investment no longer generates exponential growth and what is relevant is innovation. The task at hand is how fast can innovators change the way people think," he added.
There is an increasingly mutually dependent relationship between insight and innovation: It is the impact of many innovations on consumers, markets and society that has become such a major focus for much current insight activity, and it is the new insight available to us that is now driving so much of today's innovation activities.
Whereas consumer and market insights used to have their primary roles in informing the decisions around new product launch and positioning, they are both now often also a key input to innovation strategy development and idea generation: They have moved from the back end to the front end of innovation. Similarly in an increasingly simultaneously homogenised and fragmenting global society, the trends that previously helped determine such issues as first launch market selection are now themselves becoming a focus for stimulating more cross border innovation.
While technology insight has previously been used largely in a foresight capacity to inform future technology strategies and product development roadmaps within sectors, as convergence of different platforms and cross-sector transfer of new capability has become more prevalent, insight of the impact of new technologies outside a firm's home space has become an important ingredient to innovation strategy development. In addition how these external developments may impact the future organisation - its focus, structure and even culture - have all become significant inputs to planning for future innovation delivery.
An increasing number of organisations wishing to make best use of their innovation capability are seeking to integrate access to five core areas of potential change into their innovation programmes. These comprise:
Market insight: Making sense of the marketplace and clarifying the emerging opportunities
Consumer insight: Getting under the skin of the consumer to reveal the key influences on decisions
Society insight: Providing in-depth understanding of how the world we live in is changing
Technology insight: Highlighting the sources of the emerging technologies that will change our lives
Organisation insight: Understanding how, why and where leading innovators deliver their innovation potential
When the most relevant elements from across all five of these are brought together to provide a coherent view of potential new opportunities, barriers and enablers, they help set an excellent framework within which innovation can occur. Faced with continued acceleration of the developing world, reformation of current perspectives and faster global impact of emerging technologies, many leading companies now see ongoing insight activity as a prerequisite for successful innovation delivery.
Therefore, the real challenge that is being faced is in gaining accurate cross-sector, cross-market and cross-technology views and translating these into a clear understanding of the true scope for innovation. In order to achieve this, different companies are taking different approaches to the access and use of insight. These are largely dictated by their sector focus and hence the associated timescales for change.
Many FMCG, financial services and media organisations focused on a 2 to 5 year horizon for major innovations are bringing together a wealth of inputs from adjacent categories to identify linkages, commonalities, conflicts and potential spaces of future opportunity. With a particular focus on how and where they can move or extend their key brands, this requires specific in-depth understanding of how consumer and customer behaviours and attitudes are adapting to the changes in society and technology, and how these will create or destroy potential markets.
By contrast, a number of technology firms and major industrial companies with longer product lifecycles are keen to gain a view of how the world around them is changing, the options that exist for the future and how they may therefore need to adapt. Less focused on immediate consumer attitudes and more on what future society will accept, primary areas of interest here are the key changes that can potentially occur as an outcome of new technological developments as well as shifts in the structure and needs of wider societies. This helps determine where to place their longer term bets for the future, how to balance different innovation opportunities and risks and how to potentially reconfigure their organisational focus and structure.
Between these two, there are a host of areas where an intelligent mix of both are required. In such fields as consumer electronics, food and drink, travel and communications an even broader range of insights are being seen as essential to drive innovation. For many leading companies, insight and innovation, once two distant cousins, have now become essentially intertwined as essential partners in delivering a stream of successful new products and services.
To discuss this further contact:email@example.com
From the Innovation Update - Innovaro
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
The first major independent report ever written investigating innovation best practice in the UK Telecoms market, has revealed that UK Telecoms companies (Telcos) are at an innovation crossroads. The report, entitled "The Snell UK Telco Innovation Report 2004", was based on interviews with over 25 executives at the UK's premier Telcos. The research reveals there is a gap between those Telcos that understand the process of innovation and those that do not.
According to the report, Telcos must,
1. Innovate - the only long-term strategy for reversing continuing revenue decline is the acceleration of product and service innovation.
2. Manage innovation strategically - to meet all future opportunities
3. Adopt formal innovation strategies - with strong business cases.
4. Measure innovation - no UK Telcos are currently doing this
5. Follow the lead of the few who have developed strong and successful innovation strategies.
Business Viewpoint: Innovation vital for our economy
The Economy Minister called for innovation to be embedded into the culture of every organisation through immediate action, supported by long-term planning.
From: the Belfast Telegraph
Saturday, September 04, 2004
From Strategy+Business August 2004 by Nicholas G. Carr
For every thousand flowers that bloom, a million weeds surface. Best to cultivate from the greats.
Management thinking has for some time been dominated by two big themes: leadership and innovation. It's not hard to see why. Both are important yet amorphous subjects. As resistant to definition as they are essential to business success, they offer unbounded opportunities for exposition and exploration to researcher, philosopher, and charlatan alike.
They have something else in common, too. It's come to be assumed that leadership and innovation are universally good qualities to which all should aspire. Through high-minded training programs, reward systems, and communication efforts, companies today routinely seek to democratize innovativeness and leadership - to drive them into every nook and cranny of their organization. In one way, this phenomenon seems yet another manifestation of the peculiarly American assumption that what's good in small doses must be great in large quantities. In another way, it appears to spring out of the shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, with the attendant weakening of traditional management hierarchies.
The cult of innovation seems healthy on the face of it. In a free market, after all, innovation underpins competitive advantage, which in turn undergirds profitability. Being indistinguishable from everyone else means operating with a microthin profit margin, if not outright losses. So why not try to innovate everywhere - to let, as Chairman Mao famously put it, a thousand flowers bloom?
Here's why not: For every thousand flowers, you get a million weeds. Innovation is by its very nature wasteful. It demands experimentation, speculative investment, and failure, all of which entail high costs and risks. Indeed, it is innovation's intrinsic uncertainty that gives it its value. High risks and costs form the barriers to competition that give successful innovators their edge. If innovation were a sure thing, everyone would do it equally well, and its strategic value would be neutralized. It would become just another cost of doing business.
But the high costs and risks also make discretion and prudence paramount. The most successful companies know when to take a chance on innovation, but they also know when to take the less glamorous but far safer route of imitation. Although imitation is often viewed as innovation's homely sibling, it's every bit as central to business success. Indeed, it's what makes innovation economically feasible.
Deliberate but Dicey
So the critical first question for any would-be innovator should not be How? but Where? Deciding where to innovate - and where not to - is fundamentally a strategic exercise, requiring a clear understanding of a company's existing and potential sources of competitive advantage. If corporate innovation involves a deliberate but dicey attempt to create a new product or practice with commercial value, then the target should be one in which a company has an opportunity to establish a meaningful and defensible point of differentiation from its competitors.
The proper focus of innovation will vary greatly from company to company, but at a high level successful businesses can be divided into two camps: process innovators and product innovators.
The article then goes on to compare Dell's and Apple's highly disciplined innovation efforts to Gateway's shoot-anything-that-moves approach.
The lesson is clear: Innovate passionately in those places where you can separate yourself from the competition. Where differentiation promises to be elusive or fleeting, be a cold-blooded imitator.
Creativity Kills Competence
Beyond the dubious economics, one of the biggest problems with unconstrained innovation is that it can end up devaluing competence. It says to employees, It's not enough to do your job extremely well: You're only truly valuable if you "think outside the box" or "push the envelope" or - pick your cliché. That can lead to distorted measurement and reward systems, misdirected activity, and ultimately the disenfranchisement of a company's best workers.
Innovation has its place - a very, very important place - but it's not everyplace. Creativity should not be allowed to shoulder competence to the verges. Acts of innovation may determine what companies do, but it's competence that determines how well they do it. Let a half-dozen flowers bloom, and keep the weeds in check.
Friday, September 03, 2004
The premier firms of the world encourage innovation by rewarding those who come up with good ideas in various ways.
"We have a two full-day creativity session patterned after Eureka.
The Director of Imagineering has developed an in-house Imagineering Institute which deals with programme development, team building, and problem-solving." - Federal Quality Consulting Group
"We do the following to increase creative potential: "The Team Learning Center featured an intensified Team Innovation programme - a four-day seminar that defined the environment, skills, and leadership traits necessary to encourage innovation. A Team Creativity Center is being developed to further encourage innovation." - Ford (MP&L) Team Learning Center
"We at Washoe provide ongoing education about our innovation goals and objectives. The staff are given time to participate in innovation projects through PQI (Perpetual Quality Improvement) teams. We reward and recognise all PQI team participation as well as other innovative efforts, projects and ideas." - Washoe Health System
"We encourage innovation in the following ways:
From the HinduBusinessOnline
- Through support and empowerment of cross-functional teams
- Facilitators are trained in innovation techniques and tools are made available to provide guidance
- State the value of innovation
- Hold innovative problem-solving sessions
- Creativity and innovation training
- We empower employees to solve problems at the lowest level.
- We talk about it
- We recognise innovation through the use of awards
- Publication - Quality Notes.
- Celebrate success
- Suggestion programmes - Smithsonian Institution
Other organizations mentioned are:
- RJ Reynolds
- Marshall Industries
- Clorox Company
- Lucent Technologies
- YMCA Metropolitan Chicago
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Businesses Must Be More Innovative
Local businesses must rise to the innovation challenge to make Northern Ireland more competitive.
That was the clear message emerging from today's meeting of the Economic Development Forum (EDF) which considered the DETI's Regional Innovation Strategy and discussed proposals to take the Strategy forward, over the next two years. Economy Minister, Barry Gardiner, Chairman of the Forum, said: "Innovation in Northern Ireland is a key priority for the Forum. We must develop a more dynamic approach to innovation."We must create and commercialise new knowledge, foster enterprise and improve our R&D and skills base to guarantee a more competitive Northern Ireland. Innovation must be embedded into the culture of every organisation through immediate action, supported by long-term planning."
From : 4ni
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Core Competitive Strength - Innovation
It seems that about every 10 years, just when the pundits, politicians and others are bemoaning the dire fate awaiting American business-- especially manufacturing--we rediscover a core competitive strength: innovation.
It has been a long time since America could be called a low-cost source of goods and services. It has been, and remains, a high-value source. The primary drivers of this high value are innovations and follow-on investment in great new ideas.Innovation is often misunderstood. It comes in many forms. It has many sources. If you're running a business, innovation done well and consistently can reward you with success, in any state of the economy. If you don't innovate at all, or do it poorly, or attempt it sporadically, my bet is that you're going to have trouble.
Misunderstanding about innovation comes from thinking that it is the sole purview of lab-coated scientists or engineers. It's not. Or that the result must be a "shake-the-world" product or service. Very rare. Or that it's very expensive and risky. Not necessarily. Most successful innovation is rather small scale, readily manageable and executable. The most successful innovative companies know the secret: do a lot of it, make it a consistent, fundamental company process--like, for example, accounting--and manage it.
Innovation can be absolute or relative. Absolute innovation means inventing something truly new and unique. Examples abound, but Post-It Notes and spreadsheet software are easily recognized as creating new habits for millions of people. Such ideas, which truly redefine ways of life or business practices, are candidates for protection under patent or copyright laws. Relative innovation means developing products, services, processes, methods or markets that are new, and beneficial, to your organization. Continuous relative innovation is a powerful competitive weapon. As an example of relative innovation, being recruited to turn around a division of a well-known electronics company - the division had lost money for years and was on the verge of extinction. The perceived problem was poor leadership and execution. The real problem was obsolete technology and ineffective marketing. Recovering a technology leadership position would take years. The solution was to find new markets because traditional customers considered the technology a dinosaur. It worked. New uses for old ideas led the division to triple its size in six years. The real innovation was in finding a competitive home for the technology. It required lots of new thinking. Interestingly, the introduction to new markets quickly spurred the company to exceptional amounts of absolute innovation.
Companies confronting fundamental performance and competitiveness issues in most cases need to focus on value creation and innovation almost immediately. Many untapped areas of innovation exist in the customer value chain. For instance, how many manufacturers successfully profit from opportunities related to maintenance? Too few. The problem for performance-challenged companies is that no one in the organization seems to know where to start, how to manage innovation, how to get anything new through the "system", or whose job it is.
Face it: If you're a company leader, paralysis removal is your job. That means creating an organization and culture that embraces innovation--and learning how to encourage and manage the new ideas that will strengthen the business. The best way to start is to make the following assumptions:
- Innovation potential is everywhere around you. Within the "four walls" and, externally, with your customers and prospects. For example, if you're worried about outsourcing, look at possibilities for insourcing from your customers.
- Every challenge or opportunity has a solution. Learn to set aside the "obvious" answer, if only temporarily, and challenge your organization to find alternatives, as if the most apparent ones didn't exist.
- You and the people in your organization are capable of new thinking and are core sources of innovation.
From these assumptions, a climate can be created where consistent, profitable innovation can--and, if nurtured--will occur. The benefits are plentiful. Companies that consistently innovate and manage innovation will enjoy higher returns, much higher customer (and employee) retention rates, and tend to be more resilient in economic downturns. They've learned how to compete in a high-value, differentiated space.
A final word. Profitable innovation requires consistent leadership and attention. It is hardly automatic. The only thing "automatic" is the incredible American culture of innovation. It's saved us before. It will again.
From : The BusinessLedger