Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
Recently, I was reviewing results several clients had experienced with similar sized implementations of Jenni idea management software service (our idea management solution – see http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/ for more information). In particular, I was looking at the number and quality of ideas generated and the clients' feedback on their results. This is important, what may be deemed fair results in one organisation might be seen as stunning results in another. Results varied from fair to excellent.
Of course there are many reasons why one firm will get better results than another in any innovation initiative. Recent surveys have shown that issues like trust, management buy-in, time and rewards all play a part. And certainly this has been our experience as well.
In addition, I noted one other indicator of how successful an idea management implementation is likely to be: the enthusiasm of the person leading the programme in the client's firm. Enthusiastic managers inevitably had better results – and felt better about their results than their less enthusiastic associates. Their implementations also seemed to capture more creative ideas – although that is a difficult measure across industries and cultures.
That enthusiastic leadership does not show up on corporate innovation surveys is not surprising. It is hardly a measurable quality. Moreover, most innovation managers would probably describe themselves as enthusiastic.
That enthusiastic leadership leads to better innovation results is even less surprising. Indeed, it is arguably a “Duh” idea (see 5 September 2006 issue of Report 103, second article to learn more about “Duh” ideas: http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/archive.php?issue_no=20060905 ). Enthusiastic leaders in any discipline are naturally good at generating enthusiasm and support in their activities. All of which leads to better than average results.
Of course enthusiastic innovation leadership is not only important for implementations of Jenni idea management. It is also useful for users of other idea management solutions, not to mention innovation managers, brainstorm facilitators, trainers and coaches. Indeed, I would argue that enthusiasm is the single most important characteristic a brainstorm event facilitator should possess.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy for innovation managers to remain enthusiastic. They often work in firms which lack management buy-in, trust or a viable innovation budget. In fact, I believe nearly every innovation manager – or manager put in charge of an innovation initiative – starts our enthusiastic. After all, who would not be enthusiastic about taking charge of innovation? However, many an innovation manager's enthusiasm is slowly worn down by lack of support from the top.
Ironically, innovation management posts are often – but not by any means always - found in firms with less dedication to innovation than firms which do not have a dedicated innovation manager. That is because many firms hire – or promote internally – someone to a newly created innovation manager post as a quick innovation fix. Typically, a senior manager reads a few articles or attends a workshop on the importance of innovation, decides her firm needs to get innovative and hires or promotes someone to take charge of innovation in her firm. The new innovation manager is told to make the firm more innovative and left to do so with no real support from management. That makes it hard to remain enthusiastic.
Meanwhile, other managers and employees are unclear on the true importance of innovation in the firm and the innovation manager's place in the corporate hierarchy. “Sure, there is an innovation manager,” think employees, “but my boss still expects me to work a 60 hour week in 40 hours, I've got six reports to complete this week and the company has issued no clear policy on innovation. Moreover, the CEO is about as innovative as a brick”
Under the circumstances, is it any wonder innovation managers soon lose their enthusiasm and focus on doing a competent job, rather than being the innovation evangelists they could be if only they had the support of top management.
Unfortunately, there is no magic solution for recharging one's enthusiasm. Drinking lots of coffee to simulate hyperactivity might work to a limited extent. But it won't do your health any good over the long term. However, you should always try to rekindle that enthusiasm you felt about innovation when you were made an innovation manager – as hard as it may be.
If you are a senior manager, on the other hand, and you have hired or assigned someone to take charge of your innovation programme, ask yourself: what have you done to facilitate the new manager's job? What have you done to help her maintain her enthusiasm? If the answer is “not much”, then you need to do a lot more. You need to demonstrate support, provide a budget, indicate the importance of innovation to employees as well as customers, business partners and shareholders. And, you should show a little enthusiasm yourself. No. You should show a lot of enthusiasm yourself!
After all, as we have seen, a little enthusiasm goes a long way in terms of making an innovation programme work. And a lot of enthusiasm will generate stunning results.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for an innovation manager, look first and foremost for someone with natural enthusiasm. Then do everything you can to maintain that enthusiasm.
INNOVATION RESOLUTIONS FOR 2007
The new year is just around the corner and in many cultures it is traditional to make new year's resolutions – that is promises of new actions to take, and follow through on, in the new year.
Bearing in mind that most senior managers claim that innovation is one of their main corporate goals, yet a significant percent of those managers have yet to take concrete innovation steps; it makes sense to sit down now and prepare some new year's resolutions on innovation for your firm.
Saying that you will turn your firm into an innovation driven firm is not enough. Likewise, saying that you will take concrete action on innovation in 2007 is a poor resolution if you do not specify what that concrete action will be.
I propose you aim for a combination of goal driven resolutions and means driven resolutions. Goal driven resolutions might include aims to reduce operational process costs by 5% through innovative new ideas; generate five new product/product improvement ideas in 2007 or increase market-share by 10% through innovative new marketing actions.
Means driven innovation resolutions are about the means to achieve your goal. These means might include implementing an idea management solution like Jenni (http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/ ), providing an innovation budget, running a dozen ideation events or – best of all - implementing a set of clear steps to promote and encourage innovation across your firm.
So, what are you waiting for? You only have a couple more weeks of 2006. Start planning your new year's innovation resolutions now!
APPLIED CREATIVITY: BUILDING (SMALL) BUSINESS
If you are looking for a new job or - as a freelancer or small business owner - you are looking for new business opportunities in 2007, you probably ask yourself: “What job opportunities exist for me?” or “What new business opportunities might I develop for my firm” or “How might I/we build new business in 2007.” As a creative person, you are probably doing some ideation based on such a question – or “creative challenge”.
The problem with such a challenge is that it focuses too much on you. And while you are extremely important to you, you are less important to other people than they are to themselves. Thus, you should formulate a creative challenge based on your prospective employers' or clients' perspectives.
Try a challenge like: “In what ways might I add value to an employer's firm?” or “In what ways might I/we add value to a client's firm?” By generating ideas based on what you can do for an employer or a client, rather than what the employer or client might do for you; you are putting yourself in their minds. Chances are, you will generate a number of creative ideas that might not have come to you otherwise.
Give it a try!
INNOVATION TRENDS FOR 2007
Here are my predictions for innovative industries in 2007.
Almost everyone agrees that the environment has some serious problems and global warming is a real threat. Moreover, high crude oil prices and Russia's moves at cornering the market in European and Asian natural gas supply has jacked up the price of energy. These high prices have made people nervous about traditional energy and more interested in green alternatives.
Unfortunately, many forms of green energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines and bio-fuels are not particularly competitive against traditional dirtier energy. And this situation will only get worse if crude oil prices should fall.
The result is that the green energy industry needs to innovate in order to develop price competitive solutions that will appeal to stingy and lazy consumers who want to be greener as long as it doesn't cost too much or demand too much effort on their parts.
Video on demand, films over the Internet and TV on your cellphone are all new services that telecommunications companies are offering consumers in the developed world. Thus far, these new technologies have not really taken off. Many people do not see the benefit of video on demand when they get more TV than they want on their old fashioned cable TVs. Moreover, I suspect a lot of people like the random choice of having television programming suppliers decide what to play for them.
That said, telecommunications firms have pumped billions of Dollars/Euro/etc. into new technologies and expect to get something back on their investments. That means they will have to innovate in order to develop new products that really appeal and, just as importantly, develop new ways of marketing those products.
Speaking of marketing, Internet advertising has finally matured. Cellphone advertising is a growth market and people are so overwhelmed with marketing messages, they promptly forget almost all of the advertising they see. At the same time: web browsers make it easy to turn off pop-ups and other web advertisements; digital video recorders allow you to skip commercials and spam filters filter out legitimate bulk e-mail together with spam.
The result is that advertising is growing in quantity, but shrinking in effectiveness. Thus if the advertising industry wants their messages to be absorbed and remembered, they will have to innovate and keep innovating. Moreover, the innovation is not just about creative content, it is also about creative delivery and use of media.
Although the fruits of Aerospace innovation will not be seen for a many years yet, there is a quiet revolution in the industry. Dot-com billionaires who grew up reading science fiction novels about interplanetary travel are investing in their own new aerospace start-ups. Richard Branson, of Virgin fame, is launching a company to send tourists into near-space and the filthy rich can already buy a ride with the Russians to the international space station.
There is a new interest in space. Moreover, this new interest is coming more from industry rather than government. That will result in improved efficiency and better value for money (businesses, unlike governments, watch their expenses more carefully).
It also means that for the first time since the 1970s, we are likely to see some real innovation in aerospace technology and the space business. As someone who grew up on science fiction – but failed to become a dot-com billionaire – I can't wait!
That's right! The innovation support business, including idea management system providers, innovation coaches, innovation trainers and brainstorm facilitators, talk a great deal about creativity and innovation. But, to be perfectly honest, there has not been a great deal of innovation in the field of innovation.
However, as the innovation industry matures and becomes more competitive, innovation service providers will themselves have to become more innovative in order to remain more competitive. The results should be interesting to say the least.
Indeed, if you are buying innovation services, you should ask yourself if you can trust innovation services provided by a less than innovative service provider.
This will be the last issue of Report 103 for 2006. My best wishes to you, your colleagues and your families for a very happy Christmas (if you celebrate it) followed by a prosperous and innovative 2007!
LATEST IN BUSINESS INNOVATION
If you want to keep up with the latest news in business innovation, I recommend Chuck Frey's INNOVATIONweek (http://www.innovationtools.com/News/subscribe.asp). It's the only e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date on all of the latest innovation news, research, trends, case histories of leading companies and more. And it's the perfect complement to Report 103!
Report 103 is a complimentary weekly electronic newsletter from Bwiti bvba of Belgium (a jpb.com company: http://www.creativejeffrey.com). Archives and subscription information can be found at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/
Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
You may forward this copy of Report 103 to anyone, provided you forward it in its entirety and do not edit it in any way. If you wish to reprint only a part of Report 103, please contact Jeffrey Baumgartner.
Contributions and press releases are welcome. Please contact Jeffrey in the first instance.