Thursday, September 1, 2011

Beyond the Innovation Collaboration Platform

I am back...after two months of home remodeling and moving...I have time to write again...

Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited as an innovation thought leader to Bright Idea's Birds of a Feather innovation collaboration event at Kraft Foods.  I wanted to thank the Bright Idea folks for including in what was a very interesting event.

The main goal of being there was to discuss and share collaboration stories from across the organization around how the growing collaboration platforms, like Bright Idea, are being utilized by the organization.  Hat's off to Matt Greeley for making not about sales, but collaboration and networking.

Having this pure goal gives great credibility to their efforts to help organizations develop meaningful collaboration solutions.  And to get 100 people there is impressive.

As someone who loves the principles of trust, transparency and collaboration and sees them as the foundation of great innovation, I really want to also give credit to my colleagues at Spigit as well in this post.  I have had the opportunity to spend time with both organizations (Bright Idea and Spigit) and I continue to believe and want to praise both companies for their efforts to move beyond the 2000's principle of open innovation towards the next frontier of leveraging your own people for great things.  Does this mean that open innovation is an concept with low value...NO!  What I continue to believe and have seen in my experience on the front lines and in talking to people in the space is that if you can't change the culture of the company you will never see the greatness of open innovation flow across the enterprise.  Why?   Because if the there is only one WE (group) working and believing in this principle then it is hard to get the other WE's (departments) focusing on it and making it live. 

At the BOF meeting in Chicago I was pleased to see a great many people spending time talking about how collaboration platforms are growing in their power in a grassroots sort of way.  Meaning that many executives are getting the authority to brand the idea, bring it to the rest of the organization and are being tasked to operationalize it.  It seems that those who understand the concept is growing...the question is now about approach.

What gives me great hope however, is how both Spigit and Bright Idea are both breaking through the cultural barriers of collaboration by systemitizing a platform that can give innovation an operational methodology by which companies can leverage their folks.

In fact, in Chicago, the presentations were excellent in that they gave a wide look at the different industries that are all tackling how to make the platform live.  In fact, I saw presentations from distributors, to construction to CPG.  This is an awesome moment for innovation collaboration.

Now to my true point here...

There is still something missing........

Now we have a means to help people collaborate to create across long distances.

We also have means within the platform that make sure the good ideas don't simply die because both companies are thinking about the funding and project management process beyond the idea.


By this I mean...we all create, product, interact and learn differently.  By our very nature, there are people who love to develop concepts that produce frameworks, while there are others who are masters at de-risking incremental ideas that can be made actionable.  What is missing from the current platforms is the inclusion of the internal human elements that make people innovate.

Currently we have great internal open innovation systems that give the company a way to operationalize the creation, buy in and execution of new ideas.  What we don't have is a way to bring the right people at the right time to different types of engagements internally.  If I want to create huge breakthrough ideas who should I turn to. If I then want people to take those big ideas and figure out which one is the most feasible I probably need someone different.  What if I want to solve that problem previously described for a process engineering problem?  that might require a different set of people to bring to the party.  Internal open innovation needs another layer of depth to make it even more efficient.

The simple answer to this question...

below is the "totem" of two different types of innovators

What this is is the ISPI.  It was created by Bob Rosenfeld of Idea Connection Systems and it is something I very much believe in when it comes to innovation.  What it highlights essentially is that we are all programed to innovate differently.  In fact, these two charts are only a piece of the entire picture (there is more to both totems) but for the sake of argument to be made here around innovation platforms.  What is obvious is this...these two people do not like to innovate the same way.  One is better at creating incremental innovation, de-risking ideas and will be outstanding at documenting the process they came up to solving the problem on paper.  The other is fashioned for creating huge game-changing ideas, will not worry about the details when creating any idea and will do a great job during brainstorming of taking in all the information being presented and thinking about it and using it to produce an idea that will test what people are saying.  They are really different.  Now layer on the fact that one could be a finance person and the other could be from R&D.  If you bring that into the discussion (and it doesn't matter how you put it together) you would want that expertise for different things no? 

What I am trying to say is there is a deeper layer and methods out there to help these outstanding platforms push it to the next level.  To help it make even more sense as companies try to get value from great tools.  Today, they bring structure where there isn't any.  In the future who knows, could these tools bring a scalpel to the problems at hand?

I think is how you get align what I consider the three key pieces of an innovation culture...

the tools are really helping bring the goals of the enterprise (I want ideas) together with mobilizing the We (those who play), but they need to account for the ME's skills a bit more.

Just some food for thought and thank you Bright Idea for including me in what was a great experience.


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