Innovation in Practice Blog

November 27, 2008

Patent’s (Value) Pending

The Front End of Innovation blog reports 70% of respondents to their recent survey believe eliminating business method patents will hurt innovation and its practices. The premise is that innovators and entrepreneurs are less likely to innovate if they know they cannot get patent protection. The result surprises me, and it make me wonder what the other 30% were thinking. The issue stems from whether an inventor can patent an abstract process, something that involves nothing more than thoughts. The courts are saying no. A recent ruling on a business method patent by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that it was not tied to a machine or apparatus, nor did it transform a particular article into a different state or thing. It did meet the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court for patentability. Many industries that are not "machine-based" like software makers, Internet companies, and investment houses, are concerned.
November 22, 2008

The CMO’s Guide to Driving Innovation

Forrester Research, Inc. has released a new publication titled "The CMO's Guide to Driving Innovation." Cindy Commander, analyst at Forrester, has outlined best practices for chief marketing officers to drive innovation across the organization. As part of the research, she interviewed senior marketers from BMW, Equifax, GE, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, LeapFrog, and Samsung Electronics America. In addition she spoke with consultants from Innovaro, InnovationLabs, and PRTM. For companies seeking insights about innovation methods and programs, this report is essential.
October 31, 2008

The LAB: Innovating a Recruiting Process with Subtraction (October 2008)

Do systematic methods of innovation work on services and processes? This may be the most common question from corporate executives who want to learn innovation methods. This month's LAB will focus on a familiar corporate process: employee recruiting. The tool we'll use is Subtraction. To use Subtraction, we make a list of the components. With a process or service, the components are simply the steps to deliver the process or service. We remove a step one at a time to create the Virtual Product/Process. Working backwards with Function Follows Form, we innovate what the potential value or benefits would be without the component. What would the new process do? Who would use it? Why would they use it?
October 26, 2008

Lazy Innovation

Katie Konrath at tackles a common mistake in innovation - packing new features into existing products as a way to innovate - a problem I call "feature creep." Her main point: people pack products to the brim with features to be more innovative. Many believe this is the only way to innovate. Katie believes feature packing is a lazy way to innovate. Why does this happen? The major culprit is too much reliance and emphasis on the traditional PROBLEM-TO-SOLUTION approach to innovation. We spot a problem in an existing product, service, or situation, and then we "solution seek" a way to fix it. We usually end up adding additional features to the existing product, service, or situation.
October 13, 2008

TiVoing Dead People

George Orwell died January 21, 1950 at the age of 46. He is considered one of the great all-time fiction writers with works like Animal House and Nineteen Eighty Four. What if he were alive today? What would he say, and what would he write about? What if he blogged? What would the conversation be within the blogosphere? Much to my surprise, George Orwell is blogging...sort of. The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. Orwell’s domestic and political diaries from August 1938 until October 1942 are being posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written. The diaries are exactly as Orwell wrote them.
September 28, 2008

The LAB: Innovating the iPhone with Attribute Dependency (September 2008)

Here are ten innovations for the iPhone that I would love to see. I created these using the Attribute Dependency tool. It is the most powerful of the five tools of Systematic Inventive Thinking, but also the most difficult to learn. To use Attribute Dependency, we start by making two lists. The first is a list of internal attributes of the iPhone. The second is a list of external attributes - those factors that are not under the control of the manufacturer (Apple, in this case), but that vary in the context of how the product or service is used. Then we create a matrix with the internal and external attributes on one axis, and the internal attributes only on the other axis. This matrix forces the combinations of internal-to-internal and internal-to-external attributes that we will use to innovate.
September 14, 2008

Sooner, Better, Bolder

Innovation is a team sport, and no one describes this better than Professor Keith Sawyer in his book, Group Genius. Keith's blog, Creativity & Innovation, highlights one of the most significant aspects of successful innovation - that groups of people are likely to be more creative than individuals working on their own. His latest example of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios illustrates this well. “Creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working together to solve a great many problems…A movie contains literally tens of thousands of ideas.” (Ed Catmull, Pesident of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios) Why are groups so effective? What is the optimal group size? What is the best way to leverage the group dynamic? As a practitioner and teacher of innovation, I have witnessed group innovation many times in many settings, and I observe three factors that might explain why teams outperform individuals at innovating.
September 10, 2008

Complementary Innovation

Companies are enamored with chasing "white space opportunities." White space is the nickname for new, undiscovered growth segments. It spins the notion that opportunity lies just ahead of us. Telling colleagues you are working on white space opportunities suggests you are doing really important stuff. It is the ultimate growth endeavor, the risk worth taking. White space will save the day. I'm not so sure. I have two problems with white space. It is neither white, nor a space.
August 31, 2008

The LAB: Multiplication (August 2008)

The Multiplication tool is one of the five powerful thinking tools taught to me by the folks at Systematic Inventive Thinking. I like this tool because it is simple and yields great results. Even children can learn it. Multiplication works by taking a component of the product, service, strategy, etc, and then making one or several copies of it. But the copy must be changed in some way from the original component. The original component is still intact, unchanged. Now using Function Follows Form, we work backwards to take this hypothetical solution and find a problem that it solves.
August 19, 2008

Innovation Allocation

marketing or R&D? It's a trick question, of course. But it's a useful question for Fortune 100 companies to consider. Has your company made a conscious choice of how it "allocates" this leadership role? Allocating innovation to one group over the other will yield a different business result. The approaches to innovation by marketing are dramatically different than approaches to innovation by R&D, so the outputs will be dramatically different. The question becomes: which group will outperform the other? Technical-driven innovation or marketing-driven innovation?