Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation Requires Continued Engagement

Like it or not, all successful innovators share at least one characteristic with Blanche Dubois. We rely on interactions with strangers to drive our best ideas. Thanks to Tim Kastelle, I found this recent work by Jared Diamond, who uses anthropology to demonstrate that people need interactions to create and sustain new technologies. Diamond uses the example of Tasmania, which is an isolated island off the coast of an isolated continent. At one point in history, Tasmania and Australia were connected. At that point in time the people living in both locations had roughly the same technologies and advancement. As the sea levels rose, there were far fewer people on Tasmania who lost interaction with a relatively small population of Australians. When first “discovered” by Europeans, Tasmanians lacked many of the technology innovations that their distant relatives on Australia had created during the separation. Since …

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Innovation - Who Should You Fast Follow?

In a recent, and strangely unremarked post, I wrote about some reasons that firms don’t innovate. Perhaps one of the most telling is what I call the “safety of sameness”. No one ever gets fired if they: Hire IBM Execute a strategy McKinsey suggested, or Become a “fast follower” and mimic what other firms in the space do The beauty of the safety of sameness strategy is that we’ll allow others to take all of the innovation risk and we’ll swoop down, copy their ideas and we’ll be the winner. In theory this is a great idea, in practice there are a number of reasons why this is risky. First, becoming a fast follower, if there is such a thing, means intentionally adopting a reactive posture. If you are a fast follower you are intentionally setting out your strategies, processes and operations to react to what others do – in … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Strategy | 5 Comments
Innovation Perspectives - Decide to be Different

This is the first of several ‘Innovation Perspectives’ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’. Here is the initial perspective in the series: by Jeffrey Phillips Every firm has the capacity to innovate, so what’s often lacking has to do with strategy and vision. To be an “innovative” company means being willing to be different – to upset the structure of competition in an industry. So, one of the first things a non-innovative company must do is to decide to be different – to become a leader and a pioneer rather than a follower. To become proactive rather than reactive. As we like to say, the firm must leave the “safety of sameness”. Next, once the decision has been made at the executive levels to embrace innovation, …

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Innovation and Optimism

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of optimism and how it pertains to innovation and to issues like the Gulf Oil spill. This promises to be a long and rambling post, so suffice it to say that most innovators are optimists, and wouldn’t be innovators otherwise. Yet we have to balance the challenges that optimism introduces into the reality the world imposes. Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Psychology | 6 Comments
7 Reasons Why Your Firm Can't Innovate

I was meeting with a group that is interested in fostering innovation in the state where I live and we were talking about the reasons why organizations don’t innovate. We talked about the lack of strategy and cultural barriers and a number of other reasons. There are hosts of very smart people writing books and research papers on this very topic, but it struck me that I should be able to communicate the reasons firms don’t innovate in a way that a fifth grader can understand, since some of the folks we work with..never mind. At any rate, I created my alliterative list of reasons why firms don’t innovate, and if I get the time I’ll explore them in more detail over the next week or so. I encourage you to add your own reasons in the comments – alliterative or not, they are welcome as we begin …

Posted in Culture & Values, Innovation, Leadership, Management | 3 Comments
Applying a Social Media Rule to Innovation

I’ve suggested before that there are parallels between social media and innovation. In fact much “open innovation” is simply a subset of social media. In many open innovation programs a group of people submit ideas and rank and comment on the ideas within the community. The organizing feature of the community is often the topic of innovation, rather than other shared beliefs or interests. Today in a meeting I postulated (just wanted to use that word) a new social media rule. I suggested that there are really two interesting types of social media communities – broad and topical (think Twitter) or deep and narrow (think forums or some blogs). Yes, I recognize that this is a simplistic two by two matrix, but what’s interesting is that most social media exists in the two “extremes”. There are probably examples of narrow and topical, but they will …

Posted in Innovation, Social Media | 1 Comment
Creatives Take the Lead in Innovation

We’ve been developing a theory of business over the last few years, based on our work with a number of companies. The theory is less about innovation tools and techniques and more about the structure of a firm’s workforce. What’s become apparent is that the mix of skills drives a lot of innovation success. While you can take a fairly conservative culture and rally it to an occasional innovation effort, that conservative organization will revert to its comfort zone over time. To innovate consistently and effectively, a firm needs a supportive culture, a committed management team and the right mix of skills, interests and perspectives to sustain innovation. We believe that there are four kinds of perspectives that are important in a business, and the distribution of these perspectives in your organization will tell you a lot about your firm’s propensity for innovation. The four perspectives …

Posted in Creativity, Innovation | 3 Comments