Monday, September 28, 2009

On what my obstacles feed?

To increase the speed, I need more power; more power is at the expense of more weight, which in turn decreases the speed. Be it an automobile or an enterprise, knowing - on what your obstacles feed - helps. Following questions; when answered, will find some of yours.

Culture / Mindset

1) Do you associate part of your employee satisfaction to the innovative culture?
2) Does your enterprise enforce people to think only in terms of their roles?
3) Are you stuck with the thought that innovation is responsibility of HQs?
4) Is conviction that you are an innovative enterprise holding you back from doing more?
5) Is the world passing by? Are you too internally focused?

ROI / Priorities

6) Are your stakeholders’ & investors’ short term focus backed by solid reasoning?
7) Is your customer-acquisition spending primarily on tangible aspects?
8) Does your enterprise facilitate ability to change course on the way?
9) Do you deal with R&D cost Vs Benefits same as you deal with Cost price Vs Selling price?
10) Do you stay ahead of competition or follow it?

Enablement / Motivation

11) Does your leadership tend to notice the crisis manager more often than the one who avoids crises?
12) Does your enterprise recognize importance of incremental innovation?
13) Do you have an on-demand, two-way pipe between the business challenge and the idea sources?
14) Do you believe remuneration is good enough motivation for someone to innovate for you?
15) Have you visualized your junior employee taking a brilliant idea to implementation?

Somewhere between ‘why’ & ‘why not’ – that worthwhile journey begins.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Negative capability

People innovate, a process or a system doesn’t.
People are your positive capability; not enabling your people is your negative capability.

Fortunately enabling your workforce is quite in your control, and can help reduce the negative capability to great extent. Ways to enable your people is only limited to your imagination.

Enable it by giving employees their own time in the area of their interest.
Have on the spot reward at the assembly line
Create an inclusive mindset; flat structure which retains the ideas
This could become a long list ...
But what matters is - your own means of enabling on the ground. To have an enablement plan in place, obvious place to start is to look out for non-enablers, the road-blocks.

a) First and foremost - have you established a channel, a way of reaching out to your talent sources? Sending an email or putting up a blog is an option but this unstructured approach may not get you very far. Pull, in other words self-service and volunteered effort works the best.

b) Have you figured out ways to motivate a potential contributor? Certificates are good, but unfortunately it does not excite the real talent. Most like recognition and nobody says no for dollars. Most importantly map the motivation to the intellectual satisfaction.

c) Have you decentralized innovation? Do you have a team that innovates or do you have a team that innovates & coordinates the innovations of all employees across your enterprise, check out this big difference.

Figuring out your own set of enablers and keeping them fresh fosters your innovation journey.

Give man an assignment to innovate for days. Or Enable your workforce to innovate anytime, anywhere - self served.

“Give man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” - Lao Tzu.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the cloud, and counting

Today - electricity, enterprise email provider & online CRM are on your service payment list, served from the cloud.

Hiring talent is world’s oldest way of managing innovation. And way back, people figured out that talent could be also hired as-and-when needed & for-the-time it is needed

Moving on from there, a new revolution is taking place. Innovation is now open.

Following is the direction; a typical senior management has started thinking.

1) I do not need the best talent, I need the right talent.
2) I do not need the right talent forever, I need it for now and I don’t know when next.
3) I do not want to go attempt and search the right talent, I want the right one to approach me.
4) I do not want to keep paying for something with a probability of not meeting my expectations.

If you closely look at this new mindset, you will find it to be a win-win for both the sides.

a) Global pool of talent – The long tail phenomenon, the right talent you are after may not be the most visible or present is the most obvious place, or part of the best and biggest groups. Innovation intermediaries are now connecting your enterprises with the right talent across the world.
b) Customers – are obviously the best source of intelligence on how they can be served better. And when they are served better, then chances of lot many more customers feeling the same is high, directly affecting your business growth. It is becoming increasingly important to connect with your customers, not as an event, but to stay connected.
c) Research vendors – are opening up for a partnership which is not a fixed price contract for doing research, the outcome based contracts are on the rise. Also enterprises are tying up with multiple research vendors, and research vendors working for more clients simultaneously, as a result both sides increasing the chances of hitting the plum.
d) Academia – Most of the academia are happy to be associated with the enterprises on the relevant subjects. You won’t find an innovative enterprise not having few associations for tapping the talent in academia.

These are the things lined up for your next cloud.

The world never stops, the ones perceived to be the best, give way for better ones.

Tip is – go tap it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Who stalled my innovation?

When innovation gets caught up on the way, it becomes a liability. Benefits which are scheduled to arrive and accounted for is delayed, while the investments made keep adding up. Failed innovation is a natural process; it takes 10 to get the 1 right, and is far better than the stalled effort.

The best place to start is to figure out if resistance is taking a toll. This typically happens towards the very beginning or towards the very end when key stakeholders are involved, who, like everybody else have natural tendency to resist change.

Check if the effort is spent in one direction, without a stock take, for too long. Form a steering committee external to the innovation team derived from a diverse background, which provides independent inputs periodically.

People pick signals from leadership, if a leader’s commitment is diluted or has backed off, then you will see the untold consequence on the ground.

The stalling factor for your enterprise innovation could be entirely different, which, only you can figure out and act on. And when you do, consider following,

1. Check if key people have left or withdrawn interest.
2. Check if budget got utilised elsewhere.
3. Check if it lacks an unbiased view. Form an external steering committee.
4. Check if you are hoarding it up, de-centralize innovation and look beyond the obvious.
5. Check if you need basic processes around innovation, like you have for other critical things.

Revival resembles being in new locality of a familiar town, to get back home, it is essential to catch the one going in the right direction!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What’s everyday among Apples?

If someone asks you to name 3 innovative companies, the companies you will name will most probably be the ones that go about doing innovations as a continuous process. Less of strategy and more as way of life, they are the ones who have escaped from the trap of planning for the innovation long ago and have got down to doing it.

You will also notice that these companies do not invent big every day, however they make sure they do it continuously. The small innovations get the due acknowledgment which paves the way for big. Innovation does not need to be always radical.

On the other hand some companies are accidental innovators, nothing wrong, except that the probability of unintentional innovation is slim.

The top management has a reason to be not happy with one-off innovations. Try this,

1) Have intention to move towards innovative culture, make it as visible as possible, part of your every communication.
2) Do previous step often
3) And when you do this often, you and others in your team will figure out the how part, yes it just happens!

The most important things are the simplest, just that they are not the most obvious. While you are figuring out the how part, do check out the following

a) Your employees and customers who are NOT part of your R&D team are also well placed to provide the ideas.
b) Find a way to reach outside your enterprise boundary, the latest trend has got all the top companies initiate collaborative innovation in some form or other.
c) Invest in collaboration software which enables innovation management

Process enablement promotes perseverance, perseverance brings sustainability … building sustainable innovation culture itself needs innovation.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Get the ball rolling

That word – ‘innovation’, usually finds its place in organizations’ strategy either directly or indirectly as a non linear initiative, budget thrown in and going back to business as usual.
Not so surprisingly, there is a huge gap which gets created between the strategy and what eventually happens on the ground.

What can one do to get the ball rolling in the right direction?

1) Do one simple check as a first step, see that the strategy involving the word ‘innovation’ is not done just to make your annual presentation look good but is aligned to a business objective.

2) Leave lot of room for change on the way, having a direction is good when it comes to innovation, but don’t get stuck with it.

3) Conflict of opinion is a biggest killer of innovation, and dropping the project is more often the way out to avoid the disagreements.

For a strategic objective to increase the sales, you will find things like better branding, advertisement, and new geography in the operations plan. Similarly the pillars of your innovation operations plan should be a) Platform conducive for innovation b) Encouragement - be it reward or recognition c) Non political transparent process to evaluate ideas.

You have the pins lined up; and you have the ball.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Utilize the latent talent

Every organization has talent, which is more diverse than the roles available and assigned to an individual employee.

Every organization has a purpose to fulfil and obviously the roles are derived from that end purpose in mind and assigned top down. Though there is nothing wrong in this approach and nor does it need to change, this approach does not utilize the hidden talent of your employees, at times it could be a wrong assignment of a role; which is difficult to get rid overnight, and sometimes it is the absence of right encouragement which stops the employee from opening up.

Bigger problem though is the lack of realization, both on employers and employees part, that the talent is right there. Organizations constantly are trying to reduce the existence of this problem and many have succeeded to some extent. It is a quest to leverage what they own and pay for, pick the brains of their employees and convert that non time consuming sparks into revenue generation offering or a cost saving process.

“Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage” - Jawaharlal Nehru

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Get rid of that label

Some of us get bogged down by what interests we showed in our early childhood, a teacher or a parent would have called us sporty, artistic, numerate or systematic. If one escapes from there, then the waiting corporate world would do something similar and assign us a 'role'!

An individual more often has an ear for only what labels others have assigned, or what she has assigned for self, more often in the areas we are supposed to earn our bread from. Similarly our creative instincts also get aligned to this mindset, though capable, we end up raising self designed hurdles against creative possibilities.

Labels play equally negative role in collaborative innovation.

1) Expecting a research engineer to shorten the duration on a car assembly line.

2) Expecting a productivity improvement unit of your company to improve productivity of your team.

3) Expecting a security guard at your premise to protect you from all security related threats.

As you see the labels are nothing more than anchors, the desired “outcome” however does not necessarily need to come out of the labels.

Don’t run to facility management for a facility improvement idea. Don’t congregate only the experts on subject for the innovation at hand.

A little story I read sometime back. A teenager, while going through the list of school sports he could participate on a sports day, wished there was ‘fishing’ in the list, as that is what he has done most in last few years. But then his eyes stopped on the 'long jump', a sport he has never attempted. It was while fishing he started jumping from one side of the stream to the other, at times he got wet while not making it to the other side, but the distance he jumped increased as he became more proficient.

As an individual your most promising expertise may not be in the domain of your work.

Get rid of that label; try a mask – the transient!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

“But in our business, we don’t need to innovate a lot”

… said a new friend I made at a recently concluded Silicon India conference, he was responding to my explanation on ‘open innovation’ term.

Opening up obviously provides more ideas, more resources, more everything. However ‘more’ is only an approach, not the end result. When you open up for innovation, what you are after is the right idea and the right skills to orchestrate the innovation you are after, at the right time and for a right price.

The right innovation, ground breaking or just common sense, is what you need, and you may not need too much of it, or too frequently. Open innovation can get you that just one innovation with the help of magnitude of resources around the world. One doesn’t need to be a bulk buyer! But why mind a wider option to choose from!

On hearing the word “buyer”, the next question my new friend asked … “Isn’t it like open source software … free?”

Open innovation might be little like open source software when it comes to the making of it, but not the same when it comes to usage. You might still get few ideas for free, but not forever. Easier way is to not compare it with the open source software, because open innovation gets the word ‘open’ for crossing your walls and opening it up to wider resources for getting your innovation done, and not for distributing or using it for free.

Cheap maybe, but not free is open innovation.

Yes, your business may not need to innovate lot, or at least that’s what you think for now! either way innovation can become addiction and this one is a good one.

Just as innovation is the lifeline for multinationals, it is for a one person business, a newly found means “open innovation” walks the same path.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Groupthink – Please agree!

The Meeting or a brainstorming session is a well accepted technique to come together in a room for idea generation. I have participated in these sessions many times and have come out of it feeling ‘time well spent’, I am sure you too have.

Of many observations, I want to talk about the small problem of ‘herd mentality’, and how it might affect the outcome in a big way.

a) An idea put on the board blocks others to think in different direction.
b) Pressure to generate idea might make one agree of someone else’s idea.
c) A wrong belief might set in - if most of us are thinking in one direction then that must be the correct direction.

“Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” – Half the world believed so at one point of time.

“Kashmir is root for the India Pakistan problem” – All the Pakistan rulers say this as part of their swearing in.

“The foam rupture is too small to create any problem for NASA’s Challenger” – The statement issued by the top management, engineers on the ground kept mum.

Back to our professional world, many of you must have overcome challenges in groupthinking.

What if everybody can contribute their ideas privately, then everybody gets a peak into everybody else’s ideas privately; say everybody has to support two ideas, one of that could be their own. Brainstorming happens for the top supported ideas, for additional ideas, to take the top ideas to the next level of details, and on how it needs to be executed. Doing this might eliminate the issues of herd mentality mentioned above.

“Individuality into the group thinking” is better than plain “individual thinking” or plain “group thinking”.

Check it out; your group may not think that groupthink is a problem!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

ECONOMICS of open innovation

What ROI at what RISK? – every investor’s top question! With respect to open innovation, the same question gets rephrased as below …

a) What is the cost of doing ‘open innovation’ vis-à-vis strictly ‘in-house innovation’?
b) Opening up for innovation is new for me, and new things carry more risk, can I predict my return-on-investment?
c) How can I have a control over people not on my payroll? Will I loose money?
d) We already have an internal R&D, will opening up be an additional cost?

So how are the various aspects of collaborative innovation fair when it comes to the all important, COST?

COST FACTOR 1: By far the most favorable advantage open innovation carries is ‘Pay for real outcome not for trial and error.

This is a huge cost saving, and a simple logic. Assuming there is a 20% chance of an average innovation effort to succeed, in open innovation you pay only for the favorable outcome and not for the effort which does not yield desired results.

A must ask question is “Then who pays for the effort which does not yield desired results”? The rule of averages comes into play, the so called huge cost of yielding no result is distributed among many people, making it most of the times insignificant for an individual. Broad talent pool increases the chances of finding the right fit for you and at the same time increases individual’s chances of finding an opportunity where her talent can fit. As you see it’s a solid win-win situation.

COST FACTOR 2: Benefit from what is yours, in-house.

Opening up to outside of your group but within your organization can also be treated as a type of open innovation.
Leveraging what you have – by connecting the exiting talent of your organization (part time, full time or even coffee time) with the existing challenge of your organization.
Utilizing what you anyway paid for is a cost saving. Garage sales never hurt.

COST FACTOR 3: Avoid risk of not completing the first, fifth or the last mile of your idea just because you do not have a person who can travel that mile for you.

Some great innovative ideas don’t see the light of the day during the execution resulting in financial losses. Fill in the gaps by bringing just-in-time talent. Just as there is a cost of innovating, there is a cost of not innovating, more so when you abandon a worthy idea.

Cost of doing collaborative innovation, internal and/or external, is not more compared to strictly in-house innovation. Though relatively new phenomenon, open innovation provides more control and is less risky. While you won’t have control over the people, you will have a control over paying only for what you get. Open innovation does not need to be a either /or with in-house innovation, nor does it need to make an addition or reduction in your innovation budget – considering open innovation as ‘just another means’ is by far the best way to avoid any cost related roadblocks.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Learning from the collaborative innovation cases

While most of us are trying to understand and incorporate the collaborative innovation in our organizations, there are some people and organizations that have experienced it already, it makes lot of sense to understand these cases and learn from it.

I am starting a sister blog which will act as a repository of the success and failures in open innovation, collaborative innovation, co-creation from across the world.

Though the information going in these case studies is already available at various places on the internet, I am trying to achieve following.

1) Single point for reference.
2) Classify the case study information in a predefined format. (E.g. Industry, extent of openness etc.)
3) Uncover the finer and otherwise hidden aspects of these success or failure cases.

The format for the case study along with the first case study is posted at

Please feel free to suggest any changes or additions in the format.

You can also suggest a case study or point me to the case study.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Metrics for Open Innovation – “what’s my open innovation quotient”

[One slightly disconnected thought! – Can percentage of people quitting from a particular organization and becoming an entrepreneur provide any kind of metric? More the better or less the better?]

Metrics have always amazed me, be it for how different people perceive it differently or for the conviction with which it can drive one away from facts! It has amazed me equally for its subtle power to steer one to the goals at hand..

This post is for you and me to come up with measurement criteria for an open innovation effort in an organization.

Thinking aloud for the pointers … a) Is my organization doing enough to promote open innovation, b) Where and how much to invest, c) Am I utilizing all possible resources, d) Metric can’t help me remove any mental blocks, but how can I keep the open innovation in say top 5 priorities e) What is the Return on investment, f) How much is the open innovation productivity, g) How much Risk I can take for how much return?

With this laundry list, let’s create the metrics, in no particular order.

Metric A: Open innovation budget allocation proportionate to the profitability hotspots.

First I need to track and arrive at the hotspots which have potential for open innovation. Then rank them according to the profitability per unit and volume it can fetch. Allocate the open innovation budget in the similar proportion while maintaining the hotspot diversity.

Overly simplified example - For a consumer durable product, the hotspots could be the pricing or psychology of a first time buyer, the yield per unit could be low and volume high. For a new techno yacht, yield per unit could be high and volume low.

Metric B: Extent of talent utilization from outside the core team.
Measure how much non core team individuals contributed from rest of the organization and/or from outside the organization.

Example / Pointers - How many idea-bar-camps my organization organized this quarter. Someone should be telling - we received 30 ideas from the core team, 70 from rest of the organization and another 50 from outside the organization for a given hotspot. In 2006, P&G’s 50% of the product and process ideas came from outside of P&G.

Metric C: Extent of Leadership involvement.
This one is bit difficult, but open innovation won’t take roots without it.
How much effort the leaders putting to leverage the opportunity of open innovation?

Example / Questions - How many times employees hear about the genuine support for open innovation from leadership? How much time does the leadership spend on open innovation vis-à-vis overall routine work. How recently your leaders heard and discussed the idea which came from outside the core team or from outside the organization.

Metric D: Percentage of skin
% of risk taken with respect to the investment in last one year. A conscious strategy to analyze and make Proactive + Reactive investment in future.

Example/ Questions – Was my TV ad budget for the existing service line far bigger than the innovation budget? Does my organization invest for short, medium and long term innovation outcomes or is there an imbalance?

Metric E: Percentage of fresh footprint
% of number of product, service, process or business model launched in last one, two, three year(s) which were not similar to the existing ones and had an open flavor.

Example/ Pointers – The ones where we changed the color and packaging may not be counted here, repurposing the same product for a new user group might. Still better is the one where you incorporated the end user feedback.

(A fair process to decide what is genuinely ‘open’ i.e. if the contribution came from outside the core group or not, and how much, is a different topic altogether and we will discuss this in subsequent posts.)

Metric F: Percentage of fresh dollars
% of revenue generated from NEW product, services, and processes launched in last one, two and three year(s)

Example / Pointers – Revenue from a really innovative product launched 5 years back be better kept off, and if it takes effort to associate the dollars as fresh dollars, its probably a wrong association!

Metrics are a very personal thing, each organization need to derive the ones which suites them. But as a rule of thumb, the metrics which resemble the simplicity of GPS, gives you the X, Y and Z coordinates of your current open innovation state, are more likely to take you where you intend to go.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Best Time, Team and Technique for Innovation …

... do they exist?

Time …

I get some of my best ideas when I am not trying to get one, while not at my desk, during a casual walk. One probably does not innovate on 25th Avenue, at 3:00 p.m. Sometimes, the harder one tries to sleep, more difficult it becomes, same with ideas.

However, on a broader level, if one does not have an innovation agenda, innovation probably doesn’t happen. So it is a good idea to create a placeholder for innovation, meet to take stock; meet to elaborate the ideas.

Time boxing does not help in innovating; however the other extreme - time pressure gets amazing output, sometimes!

Team …

Focus groups, Innovation councils, R&D teams, Centre of Excellences, apart from doing innovation are better suited for doing equally important tasks of managing innovation. They are better equipped to provide the anchor for an organization’s innovation agenda, anchor for ideas from across the organization and optionally from outside the organization.

There is no such thing as idea team, there shouldn’t be.

Techniques …

Six Thinking Hats, or TRIZ are great techniques to ideate and innovate, however I believe that if one has a Six Thinking Hats or TRIZ mindset then it is far more productive than having a round table discussion for innovation using these techniques.

I read that some people are successful in submitting their problems to their mind, sleeping over it, and the subconscious mind coming up with clues, if not the solution the next morning.
I believe in something similar – our minds have an incredible capability in parallel imagination for the problems we have at hand. Leverage this, submit the problem to yourself, don’t start working on it.

Organizations should have capability to manage ideas and innovations just like an ERP manages inventory or General Ledger.

Don’t ignore non-techniques like gut feeling and intuition.

One old fashioned thing, record your ideas, however stupid or great. Instead of remembering idea, sometimes I only remember that I had a good one!

In a nutshell … ideas during after hours, at a lab, in the bathroom or on a treadmill … Innovation teams more as an anchor across and beyond organization … Innovation techniques with processes diluted … is probably the best time, team and technique for the innovation.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is fueling collaboration?

It’s an increasingly outdated debate whether one is doing “what one loves to do”, trash this thought. We do jobs, or may be jobs do us in, the bigger harm is done by the thought that we are not doing what we love to do.

Traditionally we were given a choice of “loving what we do” OR “to start doing what we love to do”, any other state of mind was considered bad, for you and for people around you!

Most of the people on this planet cannot afford to do what they love to do, for some it’s the daily bread, for others it’s equated monthly installments. And there are too many mundane things to be done to keep the world spinning.

Early on humans found the way out by introducing hobbies. It works fine, but it lacks variety in intellectual fulfillment. The connected world has started solving this problem bit by bit! Today one can choose the area of interest and contribute at will, start all over again at something else tomorrow.

The good things in life are always relative, there has to be some bad to call the good as good and some good to call yet another better.

People are slicing their time, and some slices are being used to do what one loves to do intellectually. People are increasingly becoming dual.

It’s this duality which is fueling collaboration in this age. An hour of intellectual fulfillment is giving a day long high and we love it. When we collaborate; a little contribution can make us feel part of bigger achievement. Collaboration facilitates the variety of part time intellectual fulfillment which otherwise was not available.

Erma Bombeck once said … “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me.”

I believe more and more people are feeling what Erma felt, and duality is the means for some people to “go get it”.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

“I just volunteered your name”

!! … something does not sound right with this quote, isn’t it? I would hear this once in a while from the outside of my cubicle at Melbourne, my boss would have finished a call with her boss and she would start assigning work to me “I just volunteered your name for..” she would go. We both knew the lighter side of it, and I still cherish those moments.

In recent decades, we make products, launch new services, and create new processes on behalf of our customers, volunteering ourselves to create something they might need. Not bad, we put ourselves in customer’s shoes, a definite progress since the days of Henry Ford and his famous declaration “Any customer can have a car painted any colour so long as it is black.”

Since then, this paradigm is shifting big way, customers are now part of the effort that companies otherwise volunteered themselves to, … co-creation is the name of the game.

Simulated car racing game or a 4D roller costar is fun, but not as much as fun as driving down Great Ocean Road or experiencing Wipeout! Companies are constantly simulating consumer behavior to stay in competition, be it by predicting, doing a market research, trial and error or using a suggestion box. It is only a logical progression that we now have reached a stage to do co-creation with our customers; we are out on the road to get the real experience.

So simply put, instead of creating a product and then expecting that customers might like it, in co-creation you allow your customers to have a say or decide what you build, customers are on boarded well before the product starts taking shape or sometimes even before it is conceptualized.

So what does it take for companies to co-create?
  1. First and the foremost, companies need to start moving towards complete transparency. When you want to prove that your restaurant’s kitchen is clean, you can advertise that your kitchen is the cleanest, or get somebody to certify it … best way is to allow your customers to walk into your kitchen, if and when they wish. One needs to have an insight to provide any value inputs. In other words if you are not moving towards transparency, you are not moving towards co-creating.
  2. Find ways to encourage voluntary involvement from customers, employees, any stakeholders. Asking for a slogan for your product in return of holiday-for-two is not co-creation. If you need value input, it needs to be voluntary, it has to be spontaneous.
  3. Gear up your communication infrastructure and CRM to enable two way communications. The partners in co-creation need to come together physically, virtually, or in whatever way. Also your CRM should no longer aim only to sell more but also to bring back more on what customers are experiencing.
  4. Last but not the least, is preparing yourself on what you do with the inputs you get from your partners in co-creation. This is the tricky one; you might get all the first three steps right, but if you do not have a solid strategy to deal with the outcome of first three, you haven’t moved an inch.
To sum it up, closed doors opening up to greater transparency, requests replaced by engagement, value derived from the point where it is experienced, and the inputs received not being just tick marks.

When you co-create, you are actually going back to the fundamentals and going back to the fundamentals never hurt.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Given a choice between a “Picture” and “Thousand words”, choose “Hundred words”!

Collaborative innovation, open innovation or co-creation, one of the frequently asked questions is “how do you go through the heaps of inputs you might end up getting and arrive at a meaningful solution”. In other words “how do you reduce all the noise and reach out to the music?”

Here I am listing two extreme enablers, most “obvious” and most “not so obvious”, there is lot in between, left out for some other time!

1) Most obvious is “Use technology to do part of the job”. Like Bugzilla does it for finding out the probable duplicate bugs, Wikipedia allows team to work on the same page so you don’t need to merge.

2) Most not so obvious, yet the game changer is to be to-the-point and encourage others to be to-the-point.

If you are an idea contributor, a solver, think of a risk that your “very valid” input was buried under your own stories and nobody noticed it. If you are a moderator, a seeker, think of the amount of time you would spend going through haystack to find the needle.

At the same time there is a risk in being too crisp, risk of not being understood. (Sometime the “picture” does not convey!).

So the right balance needs to be found.
  • Try stretching & shrinking the articulation of your idea till the right “playback” is reached, similar to the original one in your mind.
  • Group and Un-group your thoughts, doing this will remove many duplicates.
  • Don’t go beyond one level from the original topic, and if you do then come back quickly.
  • What works for me is - write what I want to write and then go back and make it to the point, so scribble endlessly if you need to, but then edit it like a devil.
While ago, I read this wonderful book “Don't Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. Steve says “If you have room in your head for only one usability rule, make this the one ... “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left“. I think this usability principle applies to lot many scenarios than obvious …“a Website and a Visitor”, “an Author and a Reader”, “the Leader and a Team”, “Marketer and a Customer”, “Seeker and a Solver”.

You will be amazed to find that “you can” actually make your point clear in lot less, lesser than you first thought.

When it is about collaboration ... less is more ... to-the-point is huge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My experiments with “mindset” for “opening up”

Have you come across a long argument just because people thought arguments were meant for winning?

Have you ever created a powerpoint presentation painting a good picture, when you yourself were not convinced?

Have you come across a situation when the genuinely better solution did not make it?

Have you heard an external consultant to your company recommending what you already thought was the way to go?

Actually this post is not about finding a solution to these challenges or calling them right or wrong.

For now I want to point to a behind the door thing - the “mindset”, which I have been currently experimenting with myself and found to be immensely helpful. While you give it a thought, let me try to list down the “desired” characteristics of this “mindset” when it comes to “opening up”. Do drop a comment, if you think of any additional characteristics.
  • It is amazingly refreshing and eventually rewarding to tolerate people and ideas “worse than yours”, “as good as yours” and “better than yours”.
  • It is tough but turns out equally good later, to get contradicted and yet not mind too much!
  • It hurts less and keeps the door open when you develop an ability to trash the genuine trash without creating an opinion of any sort.
  • It pays-off to believe that execution, and not the origin or the idea itself, is the crux of the matter.
  • It is fun and sometimes even more productive to be less formal in all your dealings.
  • It changes quite a few of your beliefs when you develop an ability to genuinely look out for value inputs from sources beyond “yourself” and beyond “your known sources”
  • It is worthwhile to revel in personal satisfaction, while building upon each others ideas.
  • It surprises you, when you realize that sharing your ideas paves way for even better ideas from you, the next time around.
If I could summarize these … when you develop a capability to “collaborate”, is when you start getting results from “opening up”.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

When in Rome, why do what Romans do. My views on “open innovation”

In-house innovations are great, when the companies and individuals have the capability, when these innovations are utilized to address the market need, when one does not stop at one-off innovations and off course when these innovations does not cost earth. But these are the exact challenges you and me face with in-house innovations, one or more of the above is usually not true.

I believe that more and more companies are opening up to "open innovation" as an extended arm to their in-house innovation effort. BT, P&G, Nokia to name a few.

Open innovation, apart from giving you a wider perspective on the solution, can as well change your problem definition itself!

Organizations do innovations, and then wait for one of them to click, the new trend however is towards “on demand innovation”, benefit from it, and move on to next one. It does not matter from where the ideas come from, what matters is how much you can benefit from it.

Software as a service and now cloud computing, in open innovation you pay only for results, these new trends make essential services accessible and affordable.

You no longer write one on one snail mails, nor do you refer Britannica encyclopedia, your city has grown to become your country and your country has expanded and has now become the world, and you access the world from your desktop. This connected world has opened up the new ways of doing everything and innovation is no exception, future of innovation is “open”, the world has opened up, and so has everything you do.