innovation excellence weekly - issue 22
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March 1, 2013
Issue 22 March 1, 2013
1. Making Time for Innovation..................................................................... Kevin McFarthing
2. Why the Front End of Innovation is Different ......... Jeffrey Phillips
3. Innovation Eats Itself ..... Mike Shipulski
4. Three Obstacles to Innovation Diffusion ....................................................... Tim Kastelle
5. Leadership, Timing and Opportunity ... Mike Myatt
6. How Small Innovation Teams Hit the Nail .... Nicolas Bry
7. Birth of a New Job Type! Arise co-creation manager ...... Yannig Roth
8. Why Design Thinking Will Fail ... Jeffrey Tjendra
9. Innovation REALLY Matters Lessons Learned from Detroit ....... Adam Hartung
10. Design & Innovation with Robert Fabricant, frog design ....... Lou Killeffer
Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and
strategic advisors to many of the worlds leading companies.
Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making
innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.
Cover Image credit: Hourglass
Making Time for Innovation
Posted on February 23, 2013 by Kevin McFarthing
A very good friend of mine works for a large, global company with multiple
locations around the world, many of which are run as hot desks. He is in
a position of responsibility, and often finds himself travelling to a different
destination on the other side of the world at short notice. Its the kind of
business where looking for ways to innovate is very important, as is time
Just to clarify, innovation in the core product is a long-term game for
reasons of investment and regulation, so the focus is on an innovative
approach to how things are done.
I can therefore understand his deep frustration when he describes the weekly telecon. A large number of people assemble at the same time
every week around their conference phones. The time is chosen to accommodate as many of the global team and their direct reports as
possible, but inevitably some people are up really early and some really late. There is an understandable impact on operational effectiveness
and family life.
The first item on the agenda is to understand who is on the line. Given that there are over fifty people on the call yes, you did read that
correctly this takes some time. The boss then launches into a list of the other items she wants to cover, then starts the meeting. I use the
word meeting advisedly here. As Im sure youll have worked out already, this format is not the most effic ient or appropriate for an exchange of
views, so it simply degenerates into a monologue interspersed with questions directed at the usual suspects on the call. J im, what do you
think? wakes Jim up with a start to realize his mind had drifted somewhere else.. And before you know it the hour is up and everybody is
An agenda is produced in advance, with different people chosen at random to speak on ideas for initiatives to improve the effectiveness of the
business. These often dont relate to previous initiatives that are just left to roll on, leading to a large number of projects and a small number of
completions. Over time the operating managers have realized the situation, so are sapped of the energy and will to persevere. This is even
before the regulatory implications of any change can be evaluated.
All that is achieved is the opportunity for the boss to verbally issue instructions that could have been done by email. There is no time to
seriously discuss how the business can do things better, no coordinated project structure and no project management. And yet, innovation is
expected. The senior operating managers are expected to improve the way they run their businesses, which of course is the right thing to do.
However in the absence of a common approach, managers just do what they think is right for their office. This produces some nice short-term
gains but an inevitable fragmentation of practice.
This situation may be somewhat extreme, and be as much about the efficient use of time and clear communication as it is about innovation.
Nevertheless I think there are some points to make. First, if you are serious about innovation, time must be found to do it properly, with a clear
link to strategy, a strong understanding of priority areas to attack, a process thats well understood and targets to reach. There is no point
allocating an hour in the management meeting agenda and saying, right, its innovation time, lets have some ideas. And please, dont start an
innovation initiative with a suggestion scheme.
Second, as much commonality of approach as possible should be sought to avoid wide deviation in practice. On this point, I appreciate the
attraction of individual initiative and there is no desire to quash it, on the contrary. While the really important areas should have the best
available way for common implementation, the best source of this is often an entrepreneurial group of people who have piloted the new method
and shown it to work.
Finally, your people are all really busy; dont waste their time on pointless meetings just to show them who is boss.
image credit: businessman standing image from bigstock
Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their
innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions,
and also has experience in life sciences.
Why the Front End of Innovation is Different
Posted on February 27, 2013 by Jeffrey Phillips
Lets assert that youve become very good at your job. Whether you are in finance,
marketing or operations, your proficiency is based on your education and your work
history. You know how to anticipate financial needs, or how to manufacture products
more efficiently because you love what you do, you do it often and you are rewarded
to do it well. You have deep knowledge about your chosen area of specialty and you
can demonstrate expertise. Then along comes an innovation need.
If the innovation need is really just continuous improvement or slight improvements
to existing products, you are in luck, because that work simply requires that you
extend your existing deep body of knowledge. If, on the other hand, you need
radical or disruptive innovation, your existing body of knowledge, your scope and
frameworks, even your tools and insights may become barriers to innovation rather
than accelerators. Thats because true innovation is about discovery, learning and analysis rather than building on past knowledge and
success. True innovation is unusual, and requires a different approach. Innovation is the only activity in a business where the people involved
are amateurs, because we spend so little time in most businesses working on discovering new needs, learning about customers and markets,
and thinking deeply about the implications from discovery and learning.
Lets consider three factors that make the Front End of innovation so different from the rest.
Most of us in businesses spend our days perfecting what we already know. The processes that drive a business are evident and well-
understood, and may need a few tweaks to perfect them. Theres little to discover about the day to day operations, as most of it has been
understood and perfected for years. Deep expertise and constant repetition mean that discovery is rarely needed. Tools and capabilities that
arent exercised become moribund and stale. We lose a sense of discovery when that sense isnt effectively or even periodically applied.
When innovators talk about the method of innovation, they usually describe it as a divergent convergent process. This means that the first
activity is about diverging enlarging the scope, enlarging the number of possible outcomes, discovering new possibilities. Most of us are
very good at converging eliminating even the reasonable alternatives to quickly arrive at one specific solution. Divergence is often one of the
most difficult aspects of innovation for many corporate executives to grasp, because it feels like unnecessary effort. Further, divergence is
uncomfortable because it requires discovery and exploring areas where the level of expertise is much lower, or non-existent.