Innovation Fortune Style


Gotta love the tag line of FORTUNE's Innovation Forum - Innovation is Everyone's Business.

Successful companies have made innovation a strategic priority. But what exactly is innovation? Is innovation creativity? In business, can we say innovation begins with creativity that then leads to ideas for new products and services that .. here's the key .. are marketable?

Andrew J. Parsons, McKinsey&Company, encourages business to stimulate a restless culture. I would call it a culture built on curiosity. Questioning the status quo. Understanding latent consumer needs. Determining how to leverage trends.

How do you build a process and a culture that ensures a continuous flow of ideas? Business Innovation points to an article in Detroit Auto News Inside about how a very traditional company - Ford Motors - is creating a grassroots culture of innovation.  The Strategy: Zap the bureaucracy and make it easy for employees to communicate with a responsive management. Then innovation becomes -  "Everyone's business!"

Tips for Creating Innovation
-Launch an internal blog or a wiki dedicated to innovation
-Reward ideas
-Hold creativity or ideology sessions
-Tap into your your customers
-Respond to suggestions...don't let ideas fall into a dark hole
-Celebrate success
-Encourage risks ... celebrate failures too
-Use mind maps
-Mix up work teams
-Understand drivers of consumer behavior
-Incorporate "innovation" into job descriptions

If you can't make the FORTUNE's conference or your budget doesn't include the $1895 registration fee,Cat_in_the_hat you might find an idea or two on the companion blog Business Innovation.

On innovation - by Dr. Seuss
And ZATZ is the letter
I use to spell Zatz-it
Whose nose is so high
that 'most nobody parts it...
So, to get there and do it,
I built an invention:
The Three-Seater Sarz-it
Nose-Patting Extension.

Sidebar: FORTUNE must think Diva Marketing is innovative - they've included a link to Diva on the BlogRoll. Sweet!

Read More About Innovation
Creativity? Innovation? Are They Different Do We Need Both?
Innovation DNA
Innovation Baby Steps
Think Smart Blog

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Innovation- aren't we all too busy minding the same old boring stuff?
At least that is the problem with 90% of businesses. I agree that there needs to be encouragment, rewards and a method to share new ideas. Otherwise, we all just sit and pray that someone will do something....sometime.

Posted by: Hutch on Nov 11, 2005 12:38:16 AM

I love innovation and all its forms, its so simple, take 2 seperate things and put them together in a new format. A blog focused on innovation is fantastic. What if you opened that blog up to a few of your Most Valuable Customers to get their input on your ideas? How about twice per year having people from completely different industries take a look through your blog and provide ideas that may be really off the wall? That's where really innovation can take place. One important item to remember on innovation is there there needs to be processes in place to drive home the innovation into an organizations culture.

good times

Posted by: Hershel Reese on Nov 11, 2005 9:27:25 AM

Of course, in order to be truly innovative - companies have to give people room and permission to both speak up and to fail. CEOs have to leave their egos at the door and the employees have to feel it's safe to float a stupid idea. Sure, it may really be stupid, but it'll get the discussion going.

Posted by: Mary Schmidt on Nov 11, 2005 9:28:04 PM

Douglas Rushkoff's business book, Get Back in the Box, makes a brilliant point about customers' involvement in the innovation process:

"...the people we used to call 'customers'are now in the lead, and should be welcomed into the process of innovation as equals...Those who are confident in their own core competency have nothing to fear from employees or customers with good ideas."

Amen! I think it's common wisdom you can't innovate in a vacuum. However, it's not common thinking you can't innovate without customers' input. I like to put it this way: Innovation is a team sport and your customers are on your team. My company learned this lesson earlier this year when we began inviting our customers to contribute in our innovation process (development of our product road map and strategic conversations about future areas of growth opportunities).

However, not everyone in our company was supportive, much less enthusiastic, about this approach. These detractors said things such as "customers don't really know what they want" and "they don't understand the true complexity of what we do".

I think this last statement veils a fear of open source collaboration. If our customers find out what is in the black box they won't need to pay us to provide our hocus-pocus. As one who has worked as a marketing executive in both large and small companies, I have experienced this attitude among marketing types to be prevalent.

As marketers, we often feel it is our duty to keep the curtain closed around our particular brand of Oz's wizard. To make what is being done behind the scenes seem so utterly complicated that a prospect would never consider finding out how to do it themselves and come to the conclusion they must buy it from us.

The simple fact, though, is people buy what they understand. Nobody wants to feel inadequate or looked upon as the village idiot for asking "that" question. When we as humans more or less "get it", we're much more apt to ask questions about the finer details. Thus, as marketers we have created the beginnings of a conversation with our prospects. And what better goal to have as marketers?

My company also learned the conversation, when extended into an open discussion around our company's thoughts on future innovation, is extremely valuable to both company and customer. Instead of it causing the customer to think about performing our service themselves, it has quite the opposite effect...they are actually more loyal customers because they now have a personal stake in the game.

Posted by: Jonathan Dampier on Nov 12, 2005 11:16:32 AM

Isn't it silly that the very people we/marketers/companies try to service are often the people who are left out of the process of innovation and new product development? When talking to customers - either informally or formally - I encourage clients to take it to the next step with feedback to the customer. The result is what Jonathan so wisely stated "they are actually more loyal customers because they now have a personal stake in the game."

Posted by: Toby on Nov 13, 2005 11:26:15 PM

The problem is that somewhere between our teen and adult years, creativity gets thrown out the window for boring writing and thinking processes. It takes practice to keep your creativity sharp and forgoing it all those years when we were busy with school work and not being encouraged to use it in the corporate world (at least, not the majority of it), we got very rusty. It's not quite like riding a bike.

Posted by: Meryl on Nov 14, 2005 11:39:30 AM

You had to be there to really appreciate what a great conference this was. One and a half days of non-stop top level perspectives on what it takes to integrate innovation into your organization. It's more than a line in your business plan. It's part of your culture, or it's not effective at all. It's not enough to say you want your people to be innovative. You have to permit them to fail. That's what Scott Cook of Intuit taked about. In his view, failure, if followed by an analysis and acknowledgement of lessons learned, is one of the building blocks of innovation.
But, Scott was just one of many. My decision to do to this conference was a last minute thing. But, I'm planning to attend again next year. It was, withouth question, the best business conference I have ever attended.

Posted by: Chas Martin on Feb 28, 2006 10:44:09 AM

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