Friday, June 3, 2011

Building a WE enterprise plaform - the power of solutions innovation platforms

In order to build an innovation culture based upon trust, it is imperative above all things to link they elements to do this...the people.  As stated in past posts, I believe there are three key elements that must be aligned if one wants see their innovation culture thrive.  Simply mandating that you will partner your way to a collaborative culture is not enough.  While the concept of open innovation is very powerful and teaching those within any organization to look outside of their own culture to "trust" others to help is key, it is not enough.  This concept does clearly bring the intellect and abilities of those outside one's organization to bear and its value is great, but it does not guarantee that those who truly believe will not ultimately destroy these valuable concepts.

I remember a time when one of my employers funded a new ventures group that focused solely on bringing very cutting edge new opportunities into the company.  While many of their efforts were often way out there, one time they successfully purchase a very great brand.  The name was very versatile and would enable a whole slew of new products to be launched from a company that had a very traditional and narrow focus.  I remember hearing about the brand and saying to myself what a great idea.  It really fits with our company's focus and would really allow some great adjacent products to be developed and launched.  It seemed like the perfect fit.

Then this great idea was brought into the "business" so it could be positioned, tested, prodded and poked to make sure that it met with the criteria the business believed it needed to become a viable business. Essentially, a great open innovation idea was exposed to the rest of the organization.  This organization had no ownership of the decision, were not part of the process and frankly didn't truly subscribe the methods of open innovation.  That idea died one of the slowest and most painful deaths I have ever seen in business.  First, the materials to make the product were not good enough.  They were toxic, unstable and really didn't fit the model of the company's margin.  They needed to be totally redone.  Next, the marketing function didn't ''get" the brand.  Upon further review, it didn't really connect with the target consumer. Our model for success didn't quite fit this higher priced offering.  The consumer segment was wealthier and off target.  The brand was based on principles that couldn't translate.  We are not in those products on some of them. The list of what was wrong went on and on.   And before I knew it was dead and the person who sold it to us made a boatload of money because they bought it back at a very reduced rate.  Great investment for them.  What tore me apart, is conceptually it just made sense in every way.  But the lack of collaboration and ownership took a great externally developed idea and killed it with culture.

This is a long winded way to make one of my points.  Unless a company has the individuals (me), the collaborative group (we) and the company (enterprise) aligned innovation can never thrive in a seamless way.  Think about that.  Each enterprise has a culture of morays they follow and usually hires people that fit in with those morays.  This can be for the entire organization,  a function or a group, but at some level the need for people to follow the culture of the enterprise is important.  In addition, aligning with the strategy of the company is equally important to make sure it heads in a direction that is valuable. 

When this occurs however, a company must also remember that while everyone must align with the enterprise's goals that the ME's or individuals need to be respected as well.  In fact, isn't it true that everyone is different and has strengths and weaknesses.  These differences are very important if we want to work together collaboratively as a WE.

That brings me to the key to this post.  The ME's are all busy working diligently together as a WE for teh good of the enterprise, only the collaborative spark or synergy that exist can get great help now.  Over the past several years the social media idea platforms for driving innovation have appeared.  Companies like Bright Idea, Spigit and Jive.  This post is a tribute to them.  Those who are creating these collaboration platforms are creating the key networked infrastructure to make the WE become something that has an idea superhighway to bring people together more easily and seamlessly.

This type of system is the future foundation of what will make open innovation successful.  Why?  Because platforms like these are more than idea machines...they are the collaborative innovation network to connect ideas, drive collaboration which helps ME find other ME's to become a seamless WE. 

What will be the difference between success and failure of these outfits?  Can they evolve beyond the idea to bring about the tangible path to execution.  It is not enough to create a WE that surfaces ideas, the WE needs to won their execution, bring the right people around those ideas and ultimately manage the ideas to success.  But is is more.  Systems like these need to continue to think of themselves beyond mere ideation.  They are simply holisitc collaboration platforms.

I had the privilege of talking with Paul Pluschkell, CEO of Spigit a while back and in our discussion I can see the seeds of going beyond ideation there.  Spigit continues to expand its thinking about its innovation platform and I believe recognizes the importance of connecting the WE so the ME's and the ENTERPRISE can operate in harmony each and everyday.  Smart infrastructure like this is more than simple email or sharepoint (which merely feels collaboration folders), it is taking the idea of collaboration into an interactive and dynamic day to day operational use case.  And the person who can figure out how to make connecting those in a global organization as easy as logging onto your computer has brought the concept of artificial intelligence into the idea of innovation collaboration, seamless execution and total connectivity.

Bravo to those who see that will align the ME, the WE and ENTERPRISE which is the essence of a successful innovation culture.  And frankly, that is the internal dream coupled with the external dream open innovation hoped to achieve in the previous decade.  Without the connectivity internally bringing ideas from everywhere will not have the ownership internally which often leads the slow death of great ideas by politics and rigid culture.


  1. Hi Malcolm,

    Very interesting article. Thanks so much for the mention. We at Spigit definitely believe that it takes "the individuals, the collaborative group and the company" to uncover, evaluate, and execute valuable, game-changing ideas.

    Through each of our products and services, our number one goal is to, as you say, "connect ideas, and drive collaboration", helping the ME's find each other and creating a seamless WE- well said.

    The exciting thing is that we're not only seeing this need and overwhelming ability to create and innovate within the one area of the Enterprise, every industry is looking for ways to better their business- increase revenue, save money. We're seeing a huge surge within the government sector as well. Working closely with the City of New York as well as the UK government, its been made very clear that the need for new and/or better ways of doing things is a necessity, not a nice-to-have.

    I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing a lot from the social innovation and crowdsourcing space over the next year. We here at Spigit are anticipating a very exciting next 12 months :) Stay tuned…

    Erin Schumpert

  2. Thank you for this insightful article Malcolm and the for the mention of Brightidea software.

    Definitely agree that platforms like you mention are helping companies and organizations create 'collaborative innovation networks' that connect ideas and the people who need them most. We continue to help companies systematically innovate and optimize their innovation pipeline over time. For detailed success stories at GE, BT, Adobe and more check out: