Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation is Offensive, Not Defensive

Where would we be without a good sports analogy every so often? I was thinking about the challenges of innovation recently and it occurred to me that corporate strategy and innovation is often about making a choice between defending turf and taking or creating turf. Most firms prefer to try to thwart other attackers and defend their turf rather than create new turf or attack another firm in their markets. The larger a firm becomes and the more comfortable it is on its own turf, the more defensive minded it becomes, because an offensive move detracts from playing defense and ensures a counter attack somewhere else. The problem with playing defense – simply defending your existing product lines and market share – is that it is a “static” way of thinking. If we think about traditional “defensive” strategies – in war or in sports – they are …

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Outsourcing Innovation

Over the last 20 years or so, as global barriers fell and telecommunications and information infrastructure increased, it has become easier and cheaper to outsource some functions. In the US this started with NAFTA for manufacturing and then moved to Taiwan and to mainland China. For services it started in the nineties as many firms moved high overhead operations like call centers to places like India and the Philippines. Today, we are reaching the point where anything that can be reduced to information can be outsourced. For example, when you have an x-ray or CAT scan, there’s a good chance someone overseas is reviewing that and sending information back. It won’t be long before much of our back-office accounting and financial planning will be done overseas as well. Richard Florida wrote a post recently entitled The Global Innovation Paradox, which points out that we think that …

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Patents Do Not Guarantee Innovation Success

I see that Forbes has ranked Raleigh one of the most innovative cities in the US. This was based on a couple of factors: Number of technology and science jobs Number of “creative” jobs Number of patents per capita Amount of venture capital invested per capita I’ll not spend my time debating these criteria, although I could easily argue that several of them are not measures of innovation but are outputs and outcomes of successful historical innovation. In other words, some of these measures are really “rear view mirror” metrics. They tell us about what happened in the past, but not what’s likely to happen in the future. To a certain extent we are benefiting from the decisions in the 60s and 70s to create Research Triangle Park and the recruitment of IBM and other research oriented firms. After all, if we were to travel back in time in the … Continue reading

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Vision and Passion for Innovation Success

As a consultant who works in the innovation space, I’ve seen lots of innovation initiatives. Some were successful in spite of themselves, and some were failures even when all the “right” people were involved. Some rely overmuch on technology, and some succeed using paper and pencil. Some have plenty of training and process, some purely adhoc. But the common denominators of all successful innovation projects are two factors: vision and passion. Let’s explore each of them briefly. When I say vision, I am using the word to represent several characteristics or components. To me, vision is understanding the need to create something new, and understanding the emerging opportunities and/or challenges that a team should address. Vision is also about being able to communicate those facts to others and get them to see the same opportunities as you do. Often we see innovation …

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Innovation Paradox - Liberated by Constraints

I’ve been captivated by Roger von Oech’s post about innovation and its relationship to paradox. It seems that almost any factor of innovation can be considered a paradox. Last time I wrote about the paradox of slowing down to speed up. This time I’d like to consider being liberated by constraints. Generally speaking, most teams believe that constraints limit their thinking, and their ability to be creative. What’s interesting is that most people who “do” creativity for a living crave constraints. Without constraints, every task starts from a blank sheet of paper, a very long and broad sheet of paper, with no clear starting point. David Ogilvy is quoted as having thanked his clients for a “tight brief” – not underwear, but a clearly defined and tightly controlled set of criteria to achieve. Innovation teams often believe that working without constraints is the best way to …

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Innovation Paradox - Slowing Down to Speed Up

I was watching my Twitter stream recently and saw that Roger von Oech had noted that a lot of creativity and innovation is based on paradoxes. You can see his original post here, and also note especially the comments to his post where people added other “paradoxes”. I thought this take was interesting, especially in light of the IBM Institute for Business Value Survey that has just been published. You know it has to be interesting when the title is Capitalizing on Complexity. In that survey the IBM authors note that the pace of change is increasing ever more rapidly, and the complexity most businesses face is also growing. The authors suggest that good leaders should embrace the pace of change and the growing complexity by considering three factors in their business: creative leadership, customer intimacy and operational excellence (my words, not necessarily theirs). In …

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Fastest Follower Usually the Innovation Winner

In our innovation circles, we like to celebrate the pioneers. They are the folks that establish the trail and go where no one has gone before. We highlight their advancements and hold up their accomplishments. But what often goes unsaid or unnoticed is that many pioneers die right on the cusp of success. Who are the ultimate winners? The Fastest Followers ™. Does this mean we as innovators should abandon the concept of “Blue Oceans” and wait for others to move? Absolutely not – but it should inform our strategies. Let’s think about one exemplar of innovation – Google, and one pioneer that made the search space possible – Yahoo. I can remember when Yahoo was the big news. Yahoo was going to take over the internet and Google was an interesting sideshow. What Yahoo did was establish that there were OPPORTUNITIES …

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