Archive for: January, 2011

Innovation posts of the week: Teamwork is becoming the heart of innovation

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My thoughts on Innovation

Want to thank for . Much appreciated!

What is innovation management to you?

Whether it’s satisfying customer’s existing needs in a new way or completely surprising them with something they’d never imagine they needed, to me innovation management is simply a systematic process of creating new products and services that deliver superior value to a market.

And to better meet these challenges, this process takes into account the external changes in world and marketplace as well as the internal changes the organization has to make to be able to adapt to change.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

There are a few things that I enjoy and that is constant learning, collaboration, risk and surprise. Innovation and constant learning go hand in hand so the learning part comes easy for me as I’m constantly ingesting knowledge from different domains and this helps keep me on the edge.

I also get a lot of pleasure when I help a client by simply helping them do something that to them seems impossible. I see this as a small step to convincing them that doing things differently isn’t that difficult because most of the time the smallest details added up make the difference.

Another thing I like about my job is collaborating with people with different backgrounds and interests. To learn from and to be a part of a group of people that come together, connect their collective minds and work for the same purpose is exciting for me. It’s beautiful to experience and to watch.

And the last thing I like is that if all of the above happens, if you innovate, you might just change the world. I love risk and to innovate is to work in uncertainty. It’s less about predicting the future and more about creating it. And this is fun for me.

And the most frustrating parts?

Human nature because we humans don’t like change and so we tend to become defenders of the status quo. And that’s the frustrating part because it’s human to conform to how things are and not challenge them and believe that there’s a better way.

In the world of business this is even more pronounced because the job people have is a stake in their futures, and risking that is not something they get enthusiastic about.

This takes patience and understanding, luckily I’m very passionate about change and so very much welcome the challenge.

What’s your next big challenge?

My big challenge is changing the perception that innovation can be done by only a few people with special skills. It’s also important to me to shift the belief that innovation is entirely a business process because it’s really a human process to a better tomorrow, we just have to realize that we’ve been doing it since the day we discovered fire.

It is my belief that the more we talk about innovation in the context of everyday life and not just business, the better off we’ll be in the long run because people will become familiar with it before they join the workforce or set out to create their own business.

Now it’s your turn to answer, let’s get to know each other in the comments Winking smile

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Image via Wikipedia

So the news broke yesterday that Black Eyed Peas singer . It seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Well it shouldn’t really surprise you because it was only a matter of time when a major corporation would call on a ‘celebrity artist’ to collaborate on a deeper level. What is surprising are the protagonists: and Intel.

You see, innovation and design consultancies such as IDEO, Jump Associates, Frog Design have been collaborating with artists for a long time. It’s standard practice for them to bring them into the ideation and design process because they understand that innovation comes from anywhere including the creative arts. Now these are not ‘celebrity artists’, they’re artists from a local bar, freelancers or a friend of someone.

And that’s the difference. Big names joining forces gets noticed.

Examples of collaboration between celebrity artists and corporations exists already: Polaroid named Lady Gaga Creative Director of it’s imaging products last year and the result were the sunglasses that incorporate both a camera for taking pictures and video and an LCD screen for playing them back. HP brought in Dr. Dre and his Beats Headphones to help freshen up their Envy line of laptops.

And this is only the beginning…

But what do these collaborations mean?


As tech companies try to figure out how best to sell their growing multimedia firepower to consumers, they are turning to creative types like for ideas and insight into the tastes of a younger demographic, as well as looking for their star power to add some sheen to their products.

What these artists have in common is they’re part of the culture of fashion, music and design. They have huge audiences of fans and have a thorough understanding of what their fans like. They can move masses of people because they understand culture. They also have a sense of technology. These insights are extremely valuable to corporations.

Some may see this as a simple marketing gimmick. I disagree. What I think is this points to a much larger trend, and that is the need for corporations to understand culture. dedicated a whole book to expose why corporations fall behind in understanding consumers and how this is simply a problem of not understanding that the world they live in, is much different than the one their customers live in. It’s rallying cry for the need to understand culture. To not just observe it but to live it and bring it into the corporation.

Insights are the seeds of great ideas and you have to understand the world your customers live in to uncover those insights. These collaborations help bridge that gap.


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It takes an entire civilization to innovate

Yesterday I asked if innovation can be born in groups or individuals. The answer depends on the definition of innovation. Creativity is not the same as innovation, ideas are born in both individuals and groups but the execution (innovation) is very much a team game.

In the above video, designer Thomas Thwaites recounts how he set out to build a toaster by himself. That meant doing everything from mining ore for steel and then melting it, to making the plastic case. In conclusion he says that it takes an entire civilization to build a toaster. No doubt it makes a great case that it takes a team to innovate.

We must not overlook the lone inventor either, though they are a rarity. And most know how to create but not how to commercialize and that’s where a group of people come in.

Thomas Thwaites
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Can innovation be bred in a group or is it an individual effort?

Spotted this question on a discussion on Linkedin and thought I’d repost my answer here and hopefully get your thoughts. (Linkedin group is open so anyone can comment there too Winking smile)

Great question. Ideation geared towards innovating can happen at both levels but I think it’s important to separate creativity from innovation. True innovation (execution of idea) happens with a group. Ideation (creativity) can be done individually and in most cases this is where ideas are born. A small group of committed and passionate people then help refine it.

What is important to consider is that when brainstorming in a group it is less effective as ‘group think’ takes over, so a better approach is to come up with ideas individually and then bring them into a collaborative environment. It’s also important to have themes (objectives) to shoot at as these will provide context for discussion. Once the ideas are in the collaborative environment the real fun begins. Ideas are just the beginning, getting people to buy into them and then help you execute is the key.

Another area of importance when talking about groups is creating serendipity. For example being in this discussion is a form of serendipity, and we as a group might come up with an idea by commenting back and forth. So this also needs to be taken into consideration as to how the idea formed.

Bottom line: Innovation is a team game!


UPDATE: Jonah Lehrer wrote up a great posts in which he argues that: “The era of the lone genius is coming to an end.” – Teamwork is becoming the heart of innovation. It’s a must read!

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Innovation posts of the week: 6 interpretations of innovation

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To innovate: Steal don’t imitate

When no one knows what’s going to happen we’ll naturally look at other people for clues on how to behave. This is the basis of imitation, and it’s a survival tactic. Simply said, in an environment where the world is changing, the best strategy is lots of imitation. The problem with this is we’re rarely aware of how ‘much imitation’ is necessary and plain and simple. It’s a balancing act to decide what to copy and what not.

Practice ‘Smart Stealing’

The best strategy is to ‘steal’ from different sources, ideally ‘the best’ sources outside your industry.

Examples abound of companies who have ‘stolen’ from others. Apple stole Xerox’s musical interface and mouse ideas. Facebook and MySpace stole Friendster’s social network idea. Microsoft stole Netscape’s browser idea. . It’s even happening in the Venture Capital Industry where one .