It’s the stuff of legend that Henry Ford is reported as saying “if I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”. This statement is trotted out (sorry….) to justify not doing consumer research on new products and services. The proposition is that consumers can’t tell you what they want; that they are unimaginative and uninterested until they see and touch the magical answer to all of their prayers, which our product will provide.
It must be a terrible feeling to be trying to innovate in the depths of a corporate morass, surrounded by the urgency of the day-to-day and banging your head on the metaphorical brick wall. Nobody seems to care and the corporate leadership is not only distant in the organization chart but never contribute to innovation.
Many of you will have heard or read the following statement – “innovation is everyone’s responsibility”. It’s often well meaning, intended to invite participation from all the creative minds in the company. However, it’s wrong.
I’m sure you’ve heard the statement – “we’re doing this innovation for strategic reasons”. Quite often “strategic” used in this context as a euphemism for “it’s not going to make any money but we need a reason to justify it”. Strategy should rarely be used as the sole reason or even excuse for innovation. It should always be strategic and make money.
Open Innovation (OI) offers companies greater opportunities for innovative products and services by increasing the access to inventions, technologies and products that other companies possess. In order for it to work effectively, it must be internalized in a way that gets a project moving fast. This is a key part of the process and certain people can play a key role.
The obituaries and tributes are fulsome and quite rightly so. Steve Jobs was an extraordinary man who built Apple into an extraordinary company. In the best tradition of declaring interests, let me say that I am also an Apple loyalist, an iPhile. I love the products, so my views may be slightly biased when I say that the Apple of the last 10 years is one of the most successful business stories ever.
I suspect the vast majority of innovation professionals would agree that measuring what you do is important. That may well be a statement of the blindingly obvious, but the debate diverges dramatically when considering what is actually done. Luis Solis of Imaginatik wrote a good post on Innovation Excellence clearly distinguishing between input and output metrics. I’d like to build on Luis’ article by adding four other considerations to the debate.
Everybody who works in business is busy. There are deadlines, crises, urgent requests from on high, and email inboxes stuffed to bursting. How many times do you reply “very busy” when asked how things are going? Scheduling meetings is a diary nightmare; it’s easier to seek perfect alignment of the planets than to get eight senior people in the same room within the next month. The personal workload and efficiency challenge is particularly acute these days.
Open Innovation is now an accepted methodology for enhancing your new product or service development pipeline. It is deployed to varying degrees depending on the industry or even the company attitude.
We deal with attraction every day of our lives, sometimes with life-changing consequences, for example in our choice of life partner. Many factors are involved – looks, intelligence, humour, wealth, or if you’re really lucky, an extraordinary combination of all four. Attraction is important in business too, but how often do you step back and consider what makes you attractive?
In my last blog I outlined some of the challenges facing Open Innovation in the context of large contracting relationships. I’ll now move on to some of the top line considerations when working with suppliers, from the perspective of both customer and supplier.
The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) is a successful organization of professionals involved with large contracts, procurement and outsourcing. If you want to know about anything to do with this area, they are the “go to” people, and are very ably led by Tim Cummins. I was delighted when Tim asked me to present at their EMEA conference in Amsterdam in May on the subject of Open Innovation, Contracts and Relationships. I’ll cover some of the learnings in this and following blog posts.
A lot has been written about Intellectual Property (IP) and Open Innovation. It’s not surprising, because it’s one of the thorniest problems facing collaborators. In a recent blog I talked about the importance of having a flexible approach to IP policy, ensuring that you can deliver the deal that is most appropriate to the partner and opportunity under consideration. Now I’ll turn attention to a more difficult challenge – how do you protect Open Innovation collaborations where keeping the IP secret is the best way forward?
We all know the regular diary entries. Write monthly report. Produce monthly numbers. Set annual objectives. Plan summer holiday. Watch favourite TV program. These tasks come around with regularity and frequency and become part of our routine.
A lot has been written about Intellectual Property (IP) and Open Innovation (OI). It’s not surprising, because it’s often one of the thorniest problems facing collaborators. Recent research from the IACCM (International Association for Contract and Commercial Management) shows that IP is the fourth most commonly negotiated term in contracts; yet it doesn’t reach the top ten of terms leading to disputes. So why the focus on IP?
There seems to have been a lot of discussion around the innovation blogs recently about who is allowed to innovate; tapping into the creativity of everybody; allowing people to run with their ideas; and making sure that idea selection doesn’t just happen at the top of the business. The implication is that the originators of the idea should “own” the idea and be the right people to champion them.
Following the provocative article written by BrainJuicer's Chief Juicer, John Kearon, "The Death of Innovation?", John interviews Kevin McFarthing of Innovation Fixer to explore the challenges big companies face in the delivery of new categories and disruptive innovation.
Click here to go to the recording.
Accenture recently published a report on Managing Trust for High Performance. The essence of the report is that trust can be directly related to corporate performance, and that losing trust with customers and other stakeholders is one of the surest ways to destroy value. Trust can also be measured and managed.
As each year goes by it gets tougher to buy Christmas presents as you have to search harder for something original and at the same time desired. There is a strong parallel with Open Innovation (OI). You need to look harder and in new places to find new things. That’s where the concept of Directed Serendipity comes in. It simply means that to get lucky you need to be looking in the right places.
I’m passionate about innovation. I’m passionate about sport, particularly football – sorry, I should say soccer for a predominantly US audience. I also love sporting analogies and the use of sporting aphorisms in business. For example, when somebody says, “step up to the plate”, or “it’s a slam dunk”, the meaning is clear, even in countries where baseball and basketball aren’t played. So why is innovation like soccer?
The recent meeting in Harrogate jointly organised by Intelligent Formulation on “Formulated Product Design: Kick Starting Open Innovation” included a session on “Working with Large Companies”, organised by Dr Kevin McFarthing of Innovation Fixer Ltd. Here, Kevin gives a summary of the key points.
Kevin McFarthing of Innovation Fixer, in collaboration with Steve Sowerby of XPotential, gave a presentation at the ESOMAR Innovation Detonation conference in Barcelona on November 15th 2010, entitled "Creating and Connecting Communities of Innovation". The presentation was very well received, and you can view it here.
Let me first acknowledge the stimulus for this blog post – thank you to Jeffrey Phillips of OVO Innovation and his recent article on Blogging Innovation. Jeffrey correctly pointed out that markets with intense competition are more likely to contain innovative companies. It follows Darwinian logic - not survival of the fittest, but survival of those most able to adapt. The most successful are those who adapt best to the competitive pressure in their ecosystem.
It’s really a rhetorical question - should innovation management be a core competence? Well, of course it should, if you are serious about growing your business. Growth = survival more so now than ever before. If you’re lucky enough to be in an industry or company that can rely purely on market expansion for short-term growth, you’re unusual, and your position will be temporary.
Open Innovation is a challenge, even for those companies who have established competence and experience. Like any challenge, it’s easy to look at what can go wrong, be cautious and not embrace it. It’s the same with Open Innovation, which is why we have put together a series of blogs looking at some common myths of Open Innovation.
We hope reading these myths helps – please contact us if you need any more help.
Myth #1 – It takes longer
If you have managed large project portfolios, or worked as a consultant helping different companies, you’ll recognize the situation. It’s particularly apparent when you start a new leadership role or assignment. Remember the questions you asked early on, ones like “why are we doing this project?” and “why do we have so many projects?”.
The answers will also be familiar. “It’s important for (insert country)” and “marketing want it” or “it’s been going for a long time and it’s probably still important”.
I attended the 2nd Open Innovation Summit in Chicago last week. It was a really good event with many interesting presentations. In the pre-conference workshop, and in the main conference, the subject of obstacles to OI came up frequently. In many cases, the devil of the piece was the in-house lawyer. One presenter described herself as a “recovering lawyer”. OK, it was said in jest, but it did start me thinking about how lawyers are regarded in innovation projects.
Good – you’re very lucky.
You probably believe that the closed, internal model, which has been so successful in the past, will continue to serve you well in the future. Besides, Open Innovation brings a lot of hassle with it.
You may also be one of the companies who say they practice Open Innovation, and point to a couple of University collaborations as the evidence. If these companies are honest with themselves, they aren’t really doing it.