Innovation in Practice Blog

August 20, 2012

Academic Focus: University of Chicago Booth School of Business

With six of its faculty members earning the Nobel Prize, it is hard to associate the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with anything else but economics. In reality, it is an innovator in many other areas. It was the first to initiate a PhD program in business (1920). It pioneered the executive MBA degree for experienced managers (1943). Booth was also the first to establish a minority relations program (1964). It is the still the only US. business school with permanent campuses on three continents: Asia, Europe, and North America. Booth preaches what it practices. It teaches systematic methods of innovation to its students. Art Middlebrooks is an clinical professor of marketing at Chicago Booth, and one of a growing number of professors teaching the SIT method. He is well qualified as both a practitioner of innovation as well as a teacher and scholar. He teaches both innovation and services marketing. "I find that students learn best by 'doing,' so I've structured both the in-class and out-of-class work to enable students to 'try out' the various tools that I teach."
August 13, 2012

Innovation Sighting: S.I.T. Patterns in Refrigerators

This month's Innovation Sighting comes to us from Dr. Steven Palter. Dr. Palter is a gynecologic fertility specialist and a true innovator in the medical field. He learned the S.I.T. method recently, so he knows how to spot the five innovation patterns of S.I.T. in everyday products and services. This one is a new refrigerator launched by LG at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is the LGLFX31945ST French Door Refrigerator with Door-in-Door. The new Door-in-Door is a classic example of the Multiplication Technique. To use Multiplication, make a list of the components of the product, select a component and copy it, then change the copied component along some variable such as size, location, or other attribute. Once you create this Virtual Product, try to identify new benefits or markets served by this configuration.
August 6, 2012

Innovation in the Mobile World

The rapid adoption of smartphones is changing the landscape of the marketing research industry. Last month’s “Market Research in the Mobile World” conference in Cincinnati highlighted many ways the market research industry is trying to adjust. The industry is evolving from using lengthy printed surveys and personal interviews to instead collecting consumer reactions “in the moment” that are transmitted digitally as it happens. What was once a process of collecting “many answers from few” is becoming a process of collecting “a few answers from the many.” With their trusty appliance in hand, consumers can now share what’s on their mind virtually any part of their day. Not only is data received faster, it is also more reliable by sampling smaller bites from a larger pool.
July 30, 2012

The LAB: Innovating Toilet Paper with Attribute Dependency (July 2012)

When Joseph Gayetty invented commercially available toilet paper in 1857, he called it "The greatest necessity of the age!" Of course, he wasn't exaggerating. The use of paper for toileting dates back to the 6th century AD. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. Since then, many companies have tried to innovate this product. Many innovations are simple gag gifts while others are quite useful. For this month's LAB, let's apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new concepts for toilet paper. S.I.T. is a collection of thinking tools, principles, facilitation methods, and organizational structures to help companies innovate products, processes, and services. We will use the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in S.I.T..
July 23, 2012

Marketing Innovation: The Subtraction Tool in Brand Development

Perhaps harder than branding is re-branding. Once the market associates your brand with a specific promise, it is difficult to get people to shift over to a newer or more updated meaning. This is especially true for brands that have been around a long time. Take the brand of Canada, for example. It adopted the instantly-recognizable Maple Leaf as its national flag in 1965 over contending choices such the one shown here. Now Canada is re-positioning the brand to update its global image. The new campaign, "Know Canada," makes clever use of the S.I.T. advertising tool called Subtraction. The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials. Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, "Cracking the Ad Code," and provide a step-by-step approach to using them.
July 16, 2012

What’s in a Name

Look at this word, then see what mental picture you get: HAMMER. Like most people, you probably see a person's hand wrapped around a metal or wood stick with an object fixed on top. You may see this object being used to strike other objects. You may imagine the heaviness of the object. The word "hammer" is a mental shortcut that instantly conjures up all the memories and associations you have with that thing. Naming objects is useful. But the names we give items also creates a barrier to innovative thinking. We have a difficult time seeing that object doing anything else than the task assigned to it. It is also difficult for us to imagine using other objects to do the job of a hammer. It is a condition called Functional Fixedness.
July 9, 2012

The Five Senses of Innovation

How do you know if someone is truly innovative? I look for three things. First, does the person have a cognitive process for generating new ideas? Innovation is a skill, not a gift. It can trained and learned like any other skill. So I expect successful innovators to have such training and be able to deploy ideation methods - on demand. Second, is the person motivated and hopeful about the future? Hope is defined as a positive motivational belief in one's future; the feeling that what is wanted can be had; that events will turn out for the best. Research shows that an employee's sense of hope explains their creative output at work. Hope predicts creativity. Third, and perhaps most elusive: do they have the innovation senses to know how their efforts will succeed? I call these the Five Senses of Innovation.
July 5, 2012

How to Use Systematic Inventive Thinking for Cutting Costs and Increasing Productivity

Innovation is commonly misperceived as a means to create brand new shiny products, design colorful marketing campaigns and create a lot of buzz and commotion. We invite you to learn how our systematic and pragmatic approach to innovation can impact your manufacturing processes and professional services by finding new ways to cut costs, allocate resources and create value for you and your customers. In our 45 min webinar you will: • Learn how inventive thinking can be successfully applied to increase productivity • Get introduced to some of the SIT thinking tools and principles • Understand how SIT complements existing methodologies used in your organization such as LEAN, Kaizen, and Six Sigma.
July 2, 2012

Innovation Sighting: Clothing to Keep You Cooler

The Columbia Sportswear Company is launching a new line of clothing that keeps you...cooler. The Omni-Freeze® is a specialized fabric weave that increases the surface area of the fabric that contacts your bare skin. This transmits heat faster and feels cooler to the touch. This is a great example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Attribute Dependency differs from the other templates in that it uses attributes (variables) of the situation rather than components. Start with an attribute list, then construct a 2 x 2 matrix of these, pairing each against the others. Each cell represents a potential dependency that forms a Virtual Product. Using Function Follows Form, we work backwards and envision a potential benefit or problem that this hypothetical solution solves. In the case of Omni-Freeze®, the dependency is created between body temperature and layers of clothing.
June 25, 2012

The LAB: Innovating a Museum with S.I.T. (June 2012)

According the Center for the Future of Museums, many non-profit museums in this country are struggling from a broken economic model. Attendance and memberships are declining as consumers are given more choices of how to spend their time. To attract more, museums need to have good storytelling, stagecraft, showmanship, great imagery, and great sound. They need to tap deep passions and emotions to create "product" that is meaningful to audiences. Otherwise, many museums will shut down. For this month's LAB, let's apply the innovation method, S.I.T, to a museum. Students from my Innovation Tools course at the University of Cincinnati created new concepts for a local museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The students portrayed the concepts in a Dream Catalog as a way to visually tell the story. You can download the entire catalog here.
February 6, 2008

The Not-So-Fuzzy Front End

A best practice at Fortune 100 companies is to see the front end of the pipeline not as fuzzy, but as crystal clear. A systematic approach to innovation using an effective process can take away the mystery of the front end, and create a sustainable growth engine.
January 27, 2008

In Search of Bad Ideas

Mitch Ditkoff notes a common misperception regarding bad ideas: "One of the inevitable things you will hear at a brainstorming session is something like "there are no bad ideas." Well, guess what? There are plenty of bad ideas....The key for aspiring innovators? To find the value in what seems to be a "bad idea" and then use that extracted value as a catalyst for further exploration." I agree. Good ideas usually start as bad ideas, an insight I learned originally from the folks at S.I.T.. But the question is: how do you extract the value from a bad idea to transform it? I offer three approaches.
January 13, 2008

Innovation Subversives

My advice: stop evangelizing and start doing. Use a proven innovation method on a mainstream issue or product and let the results speak for themselves. Don't ask permission. Don't call it innovation. Don't preach the "..see, I told you!" message. And then...do it again. I take advice from Thomas Bonoma's classic HBR article from 1986, "Marketing Subversives."
January 10, 2008

Funding Innovation

From my experience, there are two choices in how to fund innovation: invention or development. Invention means the actual genesis of the idea, usually through a concentrated effort or workshop using a proven method. Development is what you do with the ideas that have commercial merit. Both take time and money. The choice depends on whether you think spending the money to generate ideas will yield more than a pool of funds to invest the ideas that you already have.
January 6, 2008

Lessons from Improv

I've come full circle on the notion of improvisation as a source of innovation. I just finished a three day improv training program at The Second City to try to find direct application to corporate growth. I found it.
December 26, 2007

Innovation Roundtable

The Marketing Science Institute has formed a new Innovation Roundtable to explore common issues and challenges in the world of corporate innovation. The roundtable representatives are from Johnson & Johnson, GE, P&G, Diageo, Eastman Kodak, AT&T, Kraft, Merck, Thompson Healthcare, Praxair, Aetna, and General Mills.
December 21, 2007

Tempting Innovation

What about adoption of ideas of others inside your organization? Innovators faces a particularly challenging issue getting colleagues to accept their ideas. Tanya Menon from the University of Chicago describes the paradox of an external idea being viewed as "tempting" while the exact same idea, coming from an internal source, is considered "tainted."
December 16, 2007

When to Innovate

People often ask when is the best time to innovate: early in the pipeline process, middle, or late. Teams tend to resist innovation late in the process when they are busy launching a new product. Teams tend to resist innovating in the middle of the NPD process because they are too busy developing the next generation product. Teams tend to resist innovating early in the process because they are too busy developing franchise strategy. So when is the best time to innovate? Anytime.
December 8, 2007

Can you make me be more creative?

The key to becoming extremely effective at innovation is to learn all the tools and templates that help create an initial, undefined construct, or what innovation researchers call "the pre-inventive form." This ability to apply a template, then find a useful purpose for the for what comes out of that template is what allows one to innovate on demand. Templates "make" people innovate.