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Report 103

Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Issue 122

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.

 

GUEST WRITER

Once again, dear reader, you are graced with another perspective on creativity and innovation. Ezra Christensen has written an article on some key innovation terminology. This is important. There is a tendency in the world of Innovation to grab the sexiest term and use it whether appropriate or not. Read his article below and learn more.

If you would like to contribute an article to Report 103, please let me know (jeffreyb@jpb.com). But please bear in mind that all articles must have a direct link to creativity, innovation or both. Moreover, you must have, or be able to obtain, the right to authorise us to reproduce your article in Report 103.

 

RADICAL AND DISRUPTIVE INNOVATIONS: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE

By Ezra Christensen

As a regular reader of newsletters and articles on innovation I frequently see authors equate radical innovations with disruptive innovations, and incremental innovations with sustaining innovations. There are significant differences between these terms. Readers and authors should should use each of the terms accurately, and more importantly, base their decisions on the meanings behind the differences. Although some of what appears below may look familiar to you, it’s important to pay attention to the nuances that make the differences.

Because the terms incremental and radical innovations are used the most frequently, I’ll begin by with those.

Incremental Innovations

Incremental innovations are generally improvements to a technology (read product, process, or service) along the natural performance characteristics for that technology. A faster processor, lower price per unit, larger capacity, improved quality, etc. can all be classified as incremental innovations. There’s seemingly a tacit assumption that incremental innovations, while important for continued customer satisfaction, are not where the “real” innovations are.

Radical Innovations

Radical innovations are new technologies, new ways of doing things, that are substantially different than the old ways things were done. A new way to store data (flash drives rather than disk drives), a new way to deliver products to customers (Dell, iTunes), a new manufacturing process, etc. might all be classified as radical innovations. Many people talk about radical innovations as though they are the (unspoken) goal of innovation.

Sustaining Innovations

Sustaining innovations can be either incremental OR radical innovations. This is an important point; if a sustaining innovation can be either of the two, it cannot be synonymous with incremental innovation. Sustaining innovations are improvements to technologies that improve performance along predetermined measures of performance. Faster performance in computer processors might be achieved incrementally by manufacturing on a small scale (which has been done quite a lot) or it may be achieved by a radical approach such as manufacturing 3D chips rather than the traditional 2D method that has been done for quite some time (IBM and Honda have both developed 3D chips). This difference is important because, as Clayton Christensen describes in The Innovator's Dilemma, existing firms historically have embraced sustaining innovations, both incremental and radical, while entrant firms have a much more difficult time finding a footing in this arena.

Disruptive Innovations

Disruptive innovations, however, typically address issues that the main customers do not currently value. Christensen’s example is the size of hard disks. Initially the main computer customers used mainframe computers and the size of the disk was not important. They valued total capacity and lower cost per unit of memory. Existing companies used sustaining innovations to improve on these characteristics. Some were incremental (improvement of a technology) and some were radical (switching to a new technology). The disruptive innovation was reducing the size of the disk drive. Although the new drives had a lower total memory capacity and a higher cost per unit of memory, the new market of customers valued the smaller size and lower total cost. The existing companies did not allocate resources to the disruptive technology, even though they had built prototypes of the new model, giving the entrant firms a footing to take off (and they did).

Why It Matters

Understanding the differences between incremental, radical, sustaining, and disruptive innovations has useful applications. The next time management evaluates a “radical new idea” that will blow the competition away, management can consider whether it’s a sustaining innovation (improves on factors customers typically value) that competitors will likely embrace, or if it is a disruptive innovation, (that appeals to a different market). Sustaining innovations can be profitable, and can be integrated into the current system with relative ease. If the innovation is disruptive, however, there is rationale that suggests a different approach, such as a skunkworks or a separate division for the new product, would be needed to make it successful.

The differences are also useful for those who do market testing such as using a focus group. Asking existing customers about disruptive innovations may produce a negative response. They value other qualities in a product and are more likely to respond positively to sustaining innovations (incremental or radical). You need to find people who represent the new market you are going after to get a valid measure of what your new customers think of the technology.

For the innovator, the differences between the terms can also be used to plan how to approach management or a potential investor. They can also guide what you ask for to make the project a success. It’s about finding a round hole for your round peg, and if your company thinks in the box then you can give them a square peg.

For a more in-depth discussion of these differences and examples of why they matter you’ll want to pick up the original work, The Innovator’s Dilemma.

 

ABOUT EZRA CHRISTENSEN

Ezra graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Utah with an Honors Degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology, where he completed his honors’ thesis on creativity studies. He currently works full-time developing education and training materials, and part-time doing research and consulting on creativity and innovation. He can be reached at ezrac@symbioticcreations.com

 

JENNI 4.0 TAKES IDEA MANAGEMENT TO THE NEXT GENERATION

We are now beta testing the latest upgrade of Jenni Idea Management Software Service – version 4.0 – and expect to deliver it to clients by then end of the month. If I may be permitted to boast, the latest upgrade of our innovation problem solving tool is so cool it will blow your socks off!

For Jenni 4.0 we have looked at several trends..

  1. Customer requirements and desires
  2. The latest research in organisational innovation
  3. Web 2.0 technologies and business models

.. and have integrated them into a tool we believe will help you take your innovation processes further than ever before.

Three Ways to Solicit Innovative Thinking

The first thing users of Jenni will notice about version 4.0 is that it offers managers three methods for launching ideas campaigns for soliciting ideas from employees or other groups. An ideas campaign, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, is the model behind Jenni's approach to idea management. Rather than having an open suggestion box system where anyone can submit any kind of idea, Jenni allows managers to launch ideas campaigns based around specific innovation challenges, such as “how might we improve the efficiency of our logistics system?” or “in what ways might we improve product X?”. For a set period of time, employees are encouraged to submit ideas to respond to the challenge. At the end of this period the campaign is closed and ideas are reviewed via evaluation matrices, SWOT analyses and other processes. At the end of an ideas campaign, you have a report of the challenge, the ideas generated, the most viable ideas and information as to why those ideas are most viable. All of this is handled by Jenni.

Clearly, such an approach focuses creative thinking on your specific business needs, ensures you get the ideas you need when you need them and is far more motivational than an open suggestion scheme model of idea management. To understand why this is the case, imagine going to a brainstorming session where the facilitator demands ideas, but does not provide any challenge or problem.

In previous implementations of Jenni, ideas campaigns were based on open linear collaboration. One employee submits an idea in response to a challenge. Her colleagues could read her idea and add a building block below it or submit their own ideas separately. This approach is linear in that building blocks sit below the idea and are read in reverse chronological order. It has also been popular because it allows people to collaborate on innovative ideas – even if they don't know each other. But we were starting to feel that it wasn't enough.

So, in version 4.0, we offer two alternative choices to managers launching ideas campaigns. Of course managers can still run traditional ideas campaigns, but they can also set up...

1) Wiki Ideas Campaigns

A wiki ideas campaign starts off like an ordinary ideas campaign with an innovation challenge. However, ideas are submitted and developed in a mini wiki-like environment we call an IdeaWiki. In an IdeaWiki, any employee can look at an idea and opt to open up it in the IdeaWiki collaboration tool. Here she can edit the idea in any way, adding material to the beginning, middle or end of the existing text. She can add clarification, insert details, start dialogues and even ask questions. In addition, she can attach documents, web links and images to the IdeaWiki. The result is a dynamically collaborative approach to innovation in which people truly work together in order to develop ideas.

Moreover, as each collaborator contributes to the idea she becomes a part of the authorship team, gaining equal credit to every other collaborator. The result is spontaneous improvisational idea development teams working together to further the innovation of your firm.

Needless-to-say, every edit is logged and users can review previous edits. In additionn, the idea manager in charge of the campaign can delete inappropriate edits – all of which prevents unscrupulous people from deleting the ideas of others or otherwise abusing such a trust based system.

2) Innovation Competitions

A number of our clients run regular competitions for business plans, project proposals or other proposals which are more developed than raw ideas. They like Jenni's evaluation tools, but found the open collaborative environment unsuitable for such competitions where proposals should remain secret until the end of the competition's submission period.

For them – and you – we now offer the possibility to run innovation competitions with Jenni. Unlike traditional ideas campaigns or wiki ideas campaigns, competitions are closed. Ideas are submitted, together with required documentation, by individuals or teams. However, proposals remain invisible until the competition deadline. At that time, proposals become visible and the idea manager in charge of the competition can use Jenni's review tools to send the proposals to evaluation teams for review, SWOT analysis and any other process.

Mix-n-Match

Unlike some competing tools, Jenni allows your managers to run multiple ideas campaigns simultaneously. And in version 4.0 you can run a mixture of different types of ideas campaigns at the same time. Thus, the marketing manager might run a wiki ideas campaign on how to make a product more appealing to younger customers; a research and development manager might run a competition within her department for business plans revolving around new products; and a human resources manager might run an ideas campaign limited to one country in order to find ideas that could resolve a local problem.


There's More

In addition to the offering the possibility to set up different ideas campaign types, Jenni 4.0 offers a number of other powerful features.

Challenge Library

As noted above, all ideas campaigns - whether wiki, traditional or competition based – start with an innovation challenge. In order to help you formulate better challenges, Jenni 4.0 includes a customisable library of innovation challenges. These challenges can be used for inspiration, as the basis of new ideas campaigns and in order to maintain momentum of your innovation process.

To explain the last point, we have noticed that some clients have an on and off approach to ideas campaigns with Jenni. They will run two or three campaigns simultaneously or in quick succession – and then will have no campaigns for a month or more before starting again. While we understand that managers want to focus innovation on big issues such as new products, marketing strategies and major process changes; we believe that it makes more sense to intersperse ideas campaigns for radical innovation with campaigns for incremental innovation in order to maintain momentum in the innovation processes. The innovation library helps clients find suitable challenges for different divisions and needs.

Flexible Idea Development

We've seen that clients use Jenni to solicit and capture ideas as well as to evaluate them. Upon successful evaluation, clients prefer to move ideas from Jenni to their existing processes for higher review, testing and implementation. These processes include business cases, starting up a project file, cash-flow forecasting and similar business tools.

In order to meet this need, Jenni now includes an idea development module that facilitates the move from Jenni to other software tools. This module allows you to upload – or link to – your existing business process templates in Word, Excel, Access, Microsoft Project, Micro Planner project or any other format.

Managers reviewing ideas on Jenni can assign the most promising ones to individuals or teams, attach a template and click a button. The individuals are notified of their assignment and can click through to Jenni to access the latest template and get started.

As a result, ideas flow more freely from concept to implementation and from Jenni to your existing software tools.

SocNet: An Internal Social Networking Module

Jenni has always had a Genius Directory, a simple user directory. However, some clients, perspective clients and business partners have told us they would like to see this tool expanded to include social networking features similar to those found on Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. To appease them, we have built an optional “SocNet” module for Jenni that brings many social networking tools to your employees – but keeps all information safe within Jenni's secure environment.

Jenni SocNet includes:

1) Personal Network Development Tools

Just like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace allow user to invite friends into their networks, Jenni SocNet allows your employees to invite colleagues into their business networks. This permits employees to build networks across multiple divisions and locations and leverage those networks to solve problems, share ideas and communicate.

2) Tagging

Users of Jenni SocNet can tag themselves and their colleagues with descriptive tags, such as “creative”, “intelligent”, “team leader”, “IT skills” and so on. Such tagging provides a very basic but useful knowledge map of skills across the enterprise. It can be particularly useful in identifying people with skills that might not be apparent from their positions within the company, such as the highly creative assistant accounting manager or the secretary with substantial knowledge of diamond types.

3) Blogging

I've never been a blogger myself. But most everyone else in the world seems to be. Moreover, they find blogs to be powerful communication and collaboration tools. On top of that, clients in the US want them – and Americans tend to be ahead of the game when it comes to technology. So, we installed Saboutme Blogs in Jenni.

Saboutme blogs are simpler to use than many blogging tools on the market, lack features unnecessary for internal blogging and add features for ease of use. One particularly useful feature is that users can search all open blogs for keywords. Thus if you want to find out what people are saying about a particular issue, you can search all blogs at once, rather than having to sift through blogs one at a time.

Individual users of Jenni can start their own personal blogs with just a couple of clicks. Teams can set up team blogs to which all members can contribute – this might be useful when teams are evaluating multiple ideas or are working together on an idea development project. Idea managers – the managers who set up ideas campaigns – can write blogs specific to each campaign they set up.

Branding

If your innovation process has a special name, you might prefer to use that name with your idea management system. We understand. So, if you want to call your Jenni something else, such as Acme Brilliant Ideas Initiative” - we can set that up for you.

Optional

Of course not every organisation wants Social Networking tools – indeed, many decidedly do not want them. That's why Jenni SocNet is an optional module.

And Much More

In addition to these big changes, Jenni 4.0 includes numerous minor changes, a few new administrative tools and improved coding designed to speed performance.

What Are You Waiting For?

Existing clients will have their implementations of Jenni upgraded by the end of the month (if there are no unpleasant surprises in the beta testing). This is a part of our software as a comprehensive service and is included in our low pricing (http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/pricing.php).

If you are not an existing client, it is not too late to rectify this problem. Contact your nearest Jenni sales and service partner (http://www.creativejeffrey.com/jenni/contact.php) or me to arrange a discussion and a demo. Our partners do not only sell Jenni, they can also provide customised training, coaching and consulting programmes designed to maximise the innovative results you obtain from Jenni and your employees.

Jenni: never has it been so easy to keep so far ahead of the competition!

 

DECIDE!

In some organisations – but not yours, of course – creative idea generating initiatives can be highly inefficient. If often works like this:

  1. A team of managers is brought together for a day of brainstorming.
  2. An expert facilitator is brought in, at significant expense, to manage the brainstorming event.
  3. A lot of ideas are generated.
  4. A hot-list of several exciting ideas is derived through evaluation from the total idea set.
  5. A report is written and circulated among the managers for comment and approval.
  6. After several managers annotate the report, it is again circulated.
  7. Sometimes, one of the managers devotes a day to lovingly organising the results into a PowerPoint presentation. This is also circulated and eventually presented to top management.
  8. Sometimes, business cases for the top ideas are prepared.

A sharp reader like yourself will have noticed something is missing: the implementation of one or more of the best ideas. Now, when a company devotes a team of highly paid managers to spend a day brainstorming and hires a good facilitator to oversee the brainstorming, that costs money and takes up the time of some of the top resources. If the result of those expenses is profitable innovation, that is a good investment. If the result is nothing, it is a highly inefficient waste of resources. Giving your managers the day off would be less expensive.

Why Creative Ideas Are Not Implemented

There are several reasons why creative ideas generated in ideation sessions are not implemented.

1. Evaluation and Review Demonstrates Poor Prospects.

This is the one valid reason not to implement creative ideas. After careful evaluation and review of the ideas, experts determine that the ideas generated are unlikely to be profitable or otherwise achieve your aims. This is a valid reason not to implement ideas. After all, business innovation is about keeping ahead of the competition and increasing profitability. Unfortunately, this reason is the least common one for not implementing creative ideas.

2. Killed by Committee

Larger, bureaucratic organisations all too often have numerous committees which can kill creative ideas before they can be implemented. Reasons for killing ideas can range from fear of risk to one committee member being in a bad mood. After all, when an idea needs to be approved by committee, it typically only takes one person to say no in order to kill the idea. Although committees have a reputation for ruthlessly killing all kinds of creative output, they are not the number one idea killer. In part, that's because highly bureaucratic organisations are less likely to invest in creative idea generation activities than are non-bureaucratic ones.

3. Indecision

Surprisingly, what most often prevents creative ideas from being implemented and turned into innovation is indecision. No one is willing to make the decision to go forward with the creative idea. This is usually due to fear of risk, either risk to the organisation or risk to the individual decision maker.

Creative ideas are inherently risky – after all they are new and untested. They could go wrong and result in a loss to the firm. On the other hand, decision makers may be concerned about personal risk. They know that if the idea fails, they may be reprimanded or suffer other consequences. Sadly, this happens in all too many organisation. Not surprisingly, such organisations are not usually very innovative as employees are reluctant to chance trying anything really new!

At the same time, the decision maker is afraid to kill the creative idea. She sees the idea's potential and realises that it could be very profitable. Moreover, by authorising the idea, she might expect to be rewarded for her contribution. But she cannot be sure!

The result is that the decision maker is uncomfortable approving the creative idea, but she is also uncomfortable about officially killing it. So she puts off making a decision. This, of course, is essentially the same as killing the idea, but with less personal risk.

What Can Be Done?The obvious answer is to make a decision! Making a decision always involves some risk. And decisions about creative ideas can be more risky than others. Fortunately, decisions need not be an all-or-nothing matter. A promising creative idea can be implemented on a trial basis initially. You might also include milestones in the implementation – if the milestones are not achieved, the idea should be reviewed and new decisions made. However, this is going beyond the scope of this article. So, take a look at these resources instead...

For more information on milestones see the Report 103 article on “If-Then Milestones” in the 6 June 2006 issue of Report 103 at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/report103/archive.php?issue_no=20060606 .

For more information on overcoming the many challenges inherent in implementing a creative idea, you might also want to take a look at my Creative Idea Implementation Plan at http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/ciip.php

Meanwhile, the next time a great idea comes to your attention, don't ignore it. Decide on it!

 

EVENT: GET SMARTER AND MEET JENNI

Our Belgium and Netherlands sales and service partner, Pontes, is organising a half day workshop in Lichtaart, Belgium on Friday 29 February and Friday, 18 April. The workshop will include an introduction to idea management, a detailed explanation of the principles behind ideas campaigns and why they are effective, a demonstration of Jenni and a demonstration of Eidepot, an intellectual property protection tool developed and sold by the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property. The seminar will be in Dutch and English.

The mini-seminar also includes an impressive breakfast buffet. For more information, please follow the link or contact Rob Mahieu here.

 

EVENT: CREATIVITY & INNOVATION MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE

Buffalo, New York; 28-30 May 2008

The Creativity and Innovation Management Journal and the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, in Buffalo New York, are proud to co-host the 2nd Creativity and Innovation Management (CIM) International Conference.

The CIM conference will explore the idea of “integrating inquiry and action” through presentations by business leaders and recognized thought leaders in the fields of creativity and innovation. The Creativity and Innovation Management Journal will sponsor the conference in conjunction with the International center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State College.

Learn from more than 30 paper presentations as well as keynote speakers, including Professor Micheal Mumford from the University of Oklahoma, Professor Tudor Rickards University of Manchester, Dr. Ming-Huei Chen of Chung Hsing University, Taiwan, Professor Todd Lubart of University of Paris, Miriam Kelly of Fisher Price Toys, and Dr. Casimer DeCusatis of IBM.

Learn more and register at www.buffalostate.edu/creativity/x735.xml

 

YOUR EVENT

Want to publicise your event in Report 103? E-mail me the details at jeffreyb@jpb.com.

 

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!


Happy thinking!

Jeffrey Baumgartner

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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.

 

 


 

 

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium