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Report 103
A weekly newsletter on creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.

Tuesday, 17 August 2004
Issue 30

Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your weekly newsletter on Creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.

As always, if you have news about creativity, idea innovation or invention please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.


One of the best ideas in the early days of the world wide web was delivery tracking (also called package tracking, parcel tracking and order tracking). Initially devised by Federal Express, but soon adopted by the industry, delivery tracking allows you to check on the progress of a parcel, from the time the sender drops it off with the courier company to the time it reaches your door. You simply enter the parcel number into a form on a web page and in an instant, you know the status of your parcel. So obvious is this idea, it is hard to remember what it was like before it existed.

Likewise, if you are adopting any kind of idea management programme in your company, it is critical to have idea implementation tracking – a simple to use tool that allows people in the organisation to monitor the implementation of ideas that they and their colleagues have contributed.

Implementation tracking benefits the organisation in many ways. Most importantly, it sends a clear signal to the workforce that you value their ideas and are implementing those ideas. Even with the best idea management system in the world in place, if your people do not believe you are doing anything about their ideas, they will soon stop contributing those ideas.

Secondly, it allows enterprise wide collaboration and support of the implementation process. If staff can monitor ideas in which they have an interest, they can also contribute ideas that improve the implementation and provide support to the person responsible for the implementation.

This, critically, gives involved employees a stake not only in the idea itself, but also in the implementation of the idea. As such, their relationship with the organisation and its goals are strengthened. Something that benefits everyone.

Thirdly, implementation tracking allows you to monitor the financial metrics of the idea and its implementation: how much does the idea cost to implement? How much is it earning or saving us? What is the return on ideas (RoI – okay, okay, I know most people mean something a little different when they use the term “RoI”, but they are not in the ideas business like I am!)

By charting the financial metrics of idea implementation, you can determine the total RoI for all ideas submitted and implemented over a given time period.

Finally, transparent implementation tracking allows you to develop highly effective, cost efficient implementation procedures. With each implementation, you learn which approaches work well and which do not.

You will certainly not be surprised to learn that Jenni, our idea management web application, offers transparent implementation tracking together with a feedback tool that allows colleagues to collaborate and provide support for the implementation.

Moreover, Jenni includes idea and implementation archiving. So, even after ideas are implemented and become established in your enterprise; you and your staff can look up past ideas and their implementations and learn from them.

For more information, see


Have you ever noticed that technological innovation comes in booms? In the mid 1800s we saw the train innovation boom. Steam strains went from simple, open platforms like Stephenson's rocket to sophisticated, powerful steam locomotives capable of pulling trains across continents. The standard design of passenger carriages, railway tracks, train stations and everything else about trains were created during a busy couple of decades. Since then, little has changed – aside from the engines themselves. Train carriages are essentially the same today as they were 150 years ago. Aside from the odd monorail and maglev train, train tracks are still comprised of two parallel rails, set upon sleepers, which stretch for kilometres.

Around the turn of the century, we saw a new innovation boom: the internal combustion engine. Powered by petrol (gasoline) or diesel fuel, variations of the internal combustion engine soon powered motor cars, motorcycles, ships, trains, aeroplanes and power generators. After a couple of decades, the boom slowed. Today's motor cars, diesel engines and motorcycles are little different mechanically and structurally to those invented around the turn of the century. Indeed, what innovation there has been came as a result of a later innovation booms.

In the 1950s to the 1970s we saw an aerospace boom that put satellites into space, sent spacecraft to all but one of the planets in the solar system and sent men on round trips to the moon. At the same time, passenger aircraft became jet powered and such seminal designs as the Boeing 747 and the Concorde were developed and commercialised. However, not long after Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon, the aerospace innovation boom faded to a trickle. The space shuttle is a 30 year old design, no one has stepped foot on the moon in over three decades and the Concordes have been decommissioned owing to old age.

The only real innovation in aerospace has been in the computers that spacecraft take with them.

Which leads, of course, to the most recent innovation boom: computers. From the 1980s to the late 1990s, we saw tremendous innovation in computers. Most office work is now done on computer. Substantial portions of many new films are created by computer. A global network that allows us to share knowledge and communicate has gone from a being scientific tool to being a standard utility in most homes, schools and workplaces.

But, that boom, like so many others has faded. Today's computer operating systems, while more sophisticated, nevertheless operate like their forbearers of a decade ago. There are more web sites, more businesses selling on line and more applications being delivered by the web. But these all follow models devised during the previous two decades. What innovation still occurs does so much more slowly and incrementally.

Although it is too early to be sure, it seems the next innovation boom is just about to happen: life sciences. I predict that over the next decade or two, we will see tremendous innovation in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, genetic engineering and related disciplines. We will see new medicines and technologies which radically improve healthcare and longevity.

Interestingly, the innovation of a present innovation boom can often cause a spurt of innovation in a field which has seen a past innovation boom. For example, Although the big train innovation boom took place in the mid 1800s, the internal combustion engine innovation boom introduced diesel locomotives which lead to a small spurt of innovation in the train industry – although nothing like the original boom.

Likewise, although today's spacecraft have little to show technically over the spacecraft designed during the aerospace innovation boom, they do have significantly more powerful computers which provide better control and, more importantly, permit more sophisticated experiments and richer data being sent back to earth.

So, we can anticipate that the coming life sciences innovation boom will result in an integration of life sciences with previous innovation booms. My prediction is the result will be a stronger integration between living organisms and computers. But, we will have to wait and see.

What do you think? Why not share your ideas about innovation booms on ValpoCella – our forum for discussing applied creativity and innovation. You can join by sending a blank e-mail to or by going to


There is an interesting Harvard Business School Working Knowledge article entitled: “Perplexing Problem? Borrow Some Brains” at

The article stresses the importance of the cumulative knowledge and experience of groups. Groups can generate more innovative ideas than even the most creative member of the group can on her own. Unfortunately, many groups leave the innovation to their leader, thus underachieving in terms of their innovative potential.


An interesting survey from the Conference Group, an American research firm, says that 51% of Asia chief executive officers (CEOs) say stimulating innovation is their number one corporate concern. Only 34% of European and 28% of American CEOs feel likewise. European and American CEOs stated that sustainable growth is their main concern.

More information at

Happy thinking

Jeffrey Baumgartner





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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




My other web projects

My other web projects 100s of articles, videos and cartoons on creativity - possibly useful things I have learned over the years. reflections on international living and travel. - paintings, drawings, photographs and cartoons by Jeffrey