Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

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
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 …

Posted in Innovation, Strategy | 1 Comment
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 …

Posted in Innovation | 2 Comments
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

Posted in Innovation | 2 Comments