Importance of Big and Little Innovation

Since innovation became a sexy word for big business, companies have been tripping over themselves to become more innovative. Some merely take a marketing approach and add a slogan that emphasizes innovation without bothering to actually become more innovative. Others struggle without succeeding. One reason is that most of these companies are looking for a big innovation: that earth shattering new product that will leave the competition in the dust. Such companies overlook small innovations which bring incremental additional income or – more likely – result in relatively small but nevertheless significant cost savings. Fortunately, the solution is simple: recognize the value of little ideas. Consider what is probably the world’s most innovative car manufacturer. It is not BMW or Porsche (although they make wonderfully engineered cars). Rather it is Toyota. Toyota’s innovations are generally small and are often about improving the efficiency of their just-in-time logistics (that is getting … Continue reading

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Too Busy to Keep Up? - Develop Resilience

Resilient (ri?zily?nt): able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed; able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Wow. Talk about the perfect description for leading an organization in the current business environment! Today’s business leaders need an increasingly diverse and sophisticated array of skills, traits, and aptitudes. And with virtually every industry getting stretched, compressed, turned upside-down, inside out, and every which way but loose, I can’t think of any trait more important than resiliency. These days, change comes at us so quickly and from so many different directions, that it seems we operate in a perpetual state of not quite keeping up. Keeping employees focused, aligned, inspired, and engaged requires a resolute leader who can quickly bounce back from adverse circumstances not just once, but over and over again. What does resiliency look like in terms of specific behaviors? According to … Continue reading

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April's Top 3 Innovation Trends and Topics

What is happening in the innovation community right now? In this post, I give a quick overview of the top trends and issues based on the interactions and inspirations I have had over the last month or so. 1. User-driven innovation – does it work? How valuable is user input for innovation? This is a classic discussion that picked up more steam with this article, User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and IKEA, by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen who states that companies should lead their users, not the other way around. The article spurred lots of re-tweets, comments and a several counter-articles such as this one by Chris Grams, User-led innovation can’t create breakthroughs. Really?, and this one by Erin Young, Counterpoint: Does Apple Value User Research?. The topic has also surfaced on several of my recent client meetings. Classic topic, but it can still … Continue reading

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April's Top 3 Innovation Trends and Topics

What is happening in the innovation community right now? In this post, I give a quick overview of the top trends and issues based on the interactions and inspirations I have had over the last month or so. 1. User-driven innovation – does it work? How valuable is user input for innovation? This is a classic discussion that picked up more steam with this article, User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and IKEA, by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen who states that companies should lead their users, not the other way around. The article spurred lots of re-tweets, comments and a several counter-articles such as this one by Chris Grams, User-led innovation can’t create breakthroughs. Really?, and this one by Erin Young, Counterpoint: Does Apple Value User Research?. The topic has also surfaced on several of my recent client meetings. Classic topic, but it can still … Continue reading

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Science and Innovation Follow Diverging Paths Before Connecting

Brent Carey, a graduate student at Rice University in Texas, has discovered a material that behaves in an unusual way, at least for a non-living material. Made of carbon nanotubes and a rubbery polymer, the composite material does not show any sign of the damaging fatigue that would normally come with repeated exposure to stress; instead, it grows stiffer and stiffer. Why? Nobody knows yet. That’s the point where science and innovation start to follow diverging paths. On the one hand, the discovery is going to be exploited in a whole raft of applications. In transport equipment only, the material could find its way in all kinds of vehicles from high-performance mountain bikes and ocean-race boats, to mainstream automobiles and even aircraft. While these innovations gradually take place, science, on the other hand, is going to focus on understanding why the material behaves in this unusual way, how much performance … Continue reading

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Modularity & Openness Accelerate Innovation

Point: Use open innovation and modularity to identify new product/service needs and accelerate your pace of innovation Story: Rugged handheld computers are used every day by retailers,warehouse operators, service technicians, parcel companies, and transportation operators to log customer purchases, track inventory, monitor shipments, and scan tickets. Half a dozen manufacturers compete in the crowded market for these devices to serve customers who want everything — devices that are hardy, high-tech, compact, inexpensive, and suited to their particular needs. Psion Teklogix needed to differentiate itself from competitors like Motorola, Intermec, Datalogic, Honeywell, and LXE. The company created a modular platform strategy called Omnii with interchangeable keyboards, scanners, communications modules, screens, grips and optional features like a camera and GPS. Rather than build small volumes of unique devices for each application or new technology, Psion created a modular platform to build components in cost-effective volumes and then mix-and-match the parts to create … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Open Innovation, collaboration | 1 Comment
Modularity & Openness Accelerate Innovation

Point: Use open innovation and modularity to identify new product/service needs and accelerate your pace of innovation Story: Rugged handheld computers are used every day by retailers,warehouse operators, service technicians, parcel companies, and transportation operators to log customer purchases, track inventory, monitor shipments, and scan tickets. Half a dozen manufacturers compete in the crowded market for these devices to serve customers who want everything — devices that are hardy, high-tech, compact, inexpensive, and suited to their particular needs. Psion Teklogix needed to differentiate itself from competitors like Motorola, Intermec, Datalogic, Honeywell, and LXE. The company created a modular platform strategy called Omnii with interchangeable keyboards, scanners, communications modules, screens, grips and optional features like a camera and GPS. Rather than build small volumes of unique devices for each application or new technology, Psion created a modular platform to build components in cost-effective volumes and then mix-and-match the parts to create … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Open Innovation, collaboration | 1 Comment