Innovation Fixer Ltd helps companies improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their innovation

Contact information

T: +44 (0) 7802 256184 
E: kevin [DOT] mcfarthing [AT] innovationfixer [DOT] com 
© Innovation Fixer Ltd  

KevinMcFarthing's blog

ISPIM Grand Prize 2015 - recognising excellence in Innovation Management

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 15:38 -- KevinMcFarthing

Why is innovation like a swan?  Of course, the picture is elegant and graceful.  But below the surface there is a lot of management legwork going on that you just don’t see.  Many companies achieve remarkable things with innovations that add tremendous value to the daily lives of customers and the companies that help them; but the emphasis is almost always on the output, whether that be product, service or business model, not on the work that delivered them.

What large companies want (from small ones).

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 16:31 -- KevinMcFarthing

In the film, “What Women Want”, Mel Gibson’s character has the ability to read women’s minds and understand what they’re thinking.  In the real world, we often need to second-guess what our existing or potential partners want.  This is the case for Open Innovation (OI), when smaller companies with something to offer try to understand just exactly what large companies need, and whether there would be complementarity between the two.

The Trinity of Product Development

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:33 -- KevinMcFarthing

The early stages of innovation are inevitably quite uncertain and poorly defined.  The Front End process gradually clears the fog, you’ve done your research experiments and confirmed that you have both technical and market feasibility.  There comes a point when the development target is clarified, and this is where the Trinity of product development takes over.

The members of this special group are:

Innovation isn't easy, but it's simple. The Innovation Engine podcast......

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 17:43 -- KevinMcFarthing

Building on my recent blog post, I did an interview with Will Sherlin of 3Pillars Global, in the Innovation Engine series.  The message is the same - the technological and logistic challenges of innovation are tough enough, so the management structure of innovation should be and indeed is, simple.  

To innovate or not to innovate - now that's a question

Sun, 09/21/2014 - 09:16 -- KevinMcFarthing

Hamlet’s line “To be or not to be…” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous. And he did write quite a few good ones. Hamlet’s concern is a choice between living a troubled life; and embracing death. OK, it’s a fairly deep analogy when it comes to innovation, but the choice of embracing or avoiding innovation choices can lead to corporate death – think Kodak.

Innovation isn't easy, but it's simple

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 14:01 -- KevinMcFarthing

Innovation is hard, isn’t it?  That seems to be the prevailing wisdom.  This was going through my mind when I read a good post from Tim Kastelle recently.  Tim described how some of his innovation consultancy projects go through three phases – simplistic, complex and finally, simple.  The objective is to produce an innovation that is simply communicated and easily understood; simple is the end objective of all good innovation.

Pipeline Conference June 6th 2014

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 14:47 -- KevinMcFarthing

I’m a big fan of the annual Pipeline Conference.  This year it’s on June 6th, and as usual has a great mix of keynote speakers and online resources.  The event is online, with registered participants having access to presentations and resources for 12 months afterwards.  Not only do you not have to travel, registration is also free.

This year’s speakers include:

Changing the Innovation Game at Shell

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 17:29 -- KevinMcFarthing

Open Innovation has gained a lot of traction since Henry Chesbrough’s eponymous 2003 book. Simplistically, it can be split into two. The first, the vast majority, is inbound, where a business uses the assets of other companies to develop something new and take it to market. The second is outbound, where a company licenses its assets to somebody else to take to market.

Shell is Open for Innovation

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 16:09 -- KevinMcFarthing

The stereotype image of a large company is one of distance, secrecy and lack of speed. Yet Shell is actively trying to change this view. This mega company with a turnover of $451bn recently invited a small group of bloggers to visit Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA) to tell them about their innovation plans. My invitation arrived out of the blue so, not being sure what I’d done to deserve it, I accepted with a growing sense of curiosity.

Why Failure Is Important For Big Innovation

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:05 -- KevinMcFarthing

I read a fascinating article last week about Google X, the X representing 10; making problems 10 times better in a timeframe of 10 years.  This part of the company is challenged to produce “moonshots”.  At Google, a moonshot has three criteria.  First, it can potentially solve a really big problem for the world.  Second, it has to have radical, almost science fiction-like technology.  Finally, it has to show progress, giving it a glimmer of hope that it could actually be possible.

Take Action to Change Innovation Culture - Overview

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 10:50 -- KevinMcFarthing

Here’s a proposition – a company will never succeed with innovation unless the culture is supportive. It’s best encapsulated in the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, attributed to Peter Drucker, the noted management guru.  In this, the first of four articles focused on creating a culture of innovation, building on a previous blog, I propose that action is what changes culture, and there is a specific sequence to be followed. 

Insights Differentiate Innovation, Not Data

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 10:04 -- KevinMcFarthing

Big Data is receiving a lot of attention and investment at the moment, with the combination of technology and analytics generating enormous possibility.  As Greg Satell rightly points out, businesses that neglect Big Data will be left behind.  Data, and smart ways of generation, can potentially identify new patterns as well as test new hypotheses and simulations.  So

Managing Innovation Portfolios Part 2: Operational Portfolio Management

Wed, 10/30/2013 - 08:53 -- KevinMcFarthing

This is the second of two articles, co-written with Ralph-Christian Ohr from Integrative Innovation.

In our previous post, we discussed how Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM) ensures that the content of the portfolio is driven by innovation strategy and associated targets. We would now like to move on to Operational Portfolio Management (OPM), where the portfolio directs resource allocation, metrics and reporting on an operational and tactical level.

Managing Innovation Portfolios - Part 1, Strategic Portfolio Management

Tue, 10/29/2013 - 11:10 -- KevinMcFarthing

This is a two-part article, co-written by Innovation Fixer’s Kevin McFarthing and Ralph-Christian Ohr from Integrative Innovation.

Facing increasingly dynamic and unpredictable environments, firms are required to develop convenient innovation strategies, constantly adapt them to changing conditions and properly implement strategically-aligned initiatives throughout their organizations. Innovation portfolio management (IPM) can act as the pivotal tool to translate strategic objectives and priorities into project-based innovation activities. Furthermore, it provides a framework to convert raw ideas into real investment opportunities, based on their risk profile.

The Porfolio is the Innovation Dashboard

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 09:31 -- KevinMcFarthing

As I’ve written before, the portfolio is the pivotal tool for innovation.   It provides the link to corporate strategy; ensures the desired balance across different innovation horizons; enables and communicates priorities; and with the appropriate communication it reports progress towards innovation goals.  It is this final point that I would now like to explore.

Innovation – Leader or Follower?

Tue, 08/13/2013 - 10:10 -- KevinMcFarthing


A question often asked when considering the fit of innovation within corporate strategy is whether you want to be a leader or a follower.  Some examples are fairly clear.  Most research-driven pharmaceutical companies want to launch the first medicine in its class and to maintain leadership with ongoing clinical support.  At the other end of the spectrum it would be highly unusual for a retailer to introduce the first entrant to a new category as a private label. 

Integrating Open Innovation at Tate & Lyle

Tue, 07/23/2013 - 09:34 -- KevinMcFarthing

Tate & Lyle is a large B2B company focused on speciality food ingredients.  They have placed a large emphasis on innovation as a key source of future growth, with a pivotal role for open innovation (OI) and complementary roles for OI partnerships and venture capital initiatives.  I had the chance recently to interview Dr John Stewart, Director of Open Innovation, to learn more about their integrated program.

Tell me more about Tate & Lyle

Let's Hear it for Incremental Innovation

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 10:57 -- KevinMcFarthing

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, as the saying goes.  The same is true for innovation.  Yet much of the writing on innovation is about leaps, major technological breakthroughs that transform or disrupt markets.  Isn’t it all about Apple and Edison?  I would argue it isn’t.  The bulk of progress and associated hard work on innovation is focused on incremental innovation, the small steps that over time take products and services to new levels.  No Nobel prizes, but it’s not all about the glory.

The Portfolio is the Pivotal Tool for Innovation Success

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 08:43 -- KevinMcFarthing

In a previous corporate life, I was on the board of trustees of a very large pension fund.  Our role was to ensure income in retirement for thousands of current and former company employees.  The key lesson I learned was that the most important decision we had to make was on the mix of investments in the portfolio.  The return had to link to the objectives and requirements of the fund, now and in the future.  Portfolio management was the pivotal tool for success.


Subscribe to RSS - KevinMcFarthing's blog