Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

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
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 …

Posted in Innovation | Leave a comment
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 …

Posted in Creativity, Innovation | 1 Comment