Archive for September, 2011

RTM Journal takes on “Conquering Innovation Fatigue”

September 26, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation Fatigue

It’s been two years now since the release of the book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue: Overcoming the Barriers to Personal and Corporate Success, and we are still getting kudos and great reviews from those in the innovation industry who recognize both the malady and the solution. That’s why I’m excited to share a preview of an excellent review that will appear next week in the September/October issue of Research-Technology Management (RTM) Journal.The review was written by Bob Kumpf, chairman of Industrial Research Institute:

Conquering Innovation Fatigue: Overcoming the Barriers to Personal and Corporate Success

Jeffrey Lindsey, Cheryl A. Perkins, and Mukund Karanjikar.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009

The authors of Conquering Innovation Fatigue immediately captured my sympathy with the observation that “Few things make creative people wearier than empty talk about innovation.” Although it is encouraging that the topic of “innovation” is increasingly seen as important, the downside is that many “experts” are simply recycling well-known concepts. Jeffrey Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are experienced practitioners who offer useful insights into the personal, organizational, and societal challenges an innovator must overcome.

The authors structure their discussion around nine different “fatigue factors” that they group broadly into three classes: people fatigue, organization-level fatigue, and external fatigue. People fatigue factors describe elements that lead to fatigue in individual innovators, including:

Theft of the invention and exploitation of inventors
Innovator deficiencies (e.g., unreasonable expectations, impatience, unhealthy pride).
The NIH syndrome (“Not Invented Here”)

Organization-level fatigue arises from the company’s strategy, culture, and actions, and includes:

4. Breaking the will to share (loss of cooperation from the innovation community)

5. Fundamental flaws in decision making and vision

6. Open innovation fatigue (corporate barriers to external innovation and collaboration)

External fatigue originates with factors external to the individual innovator and to the organization, including:

7. Patent pain: barriers to intellectual property protection.

8. Regulatory pain: challenges in policy, regulation, and law.

9. University-industry barriers.

The book offers some compelling examples of innovation from the prolific inventor with an unforgettable name—Philo T. Farnsworth. Although the story of Farnsworth and RCA is generally well known, the details are worth recalling. The authors build on the Farnsworth story to examine the issues around innovation fatigue in individuals.

The strongest parts of the book, however, are those chapters that examine innovation fatigue factors that are tied to organizations. These chapters—which also include examples from the touring company of The Lion King—offer the most important lesson in the book: “Employees can be paid to offer their time and energy to the corporation but in spite of what might be on a contract, they will only share their best ideas when they feel personally motivated to do so.” This fact is at the core of the challenge that many organizations face. It is expressed in phrases like “if only ____ knew what ____ knew” (fill in the blanks with your company or organization). These chapters are well worth reading and rereading.

The book continues its examination of organizational sources of innovation fatigue by addressing the conflicting commandments to “get close to your customer” and “seek white space.” Although many consultants urge corporations to get closer to core customers, the authors show that, if this isn’t done with caution and a healthy dose of skepticism, a company’s best customers can become a source of innovation fatigue. The field of consumer electronics is rife with examples, and the authors pull together a number of classic stories of success arising from vision, not customer insight, notably, the Apple iPad.

The third class of innovation fatigue factors, external factors, is largely a result of laws and regulations. Most readers would agree that, in classic Porter fashion, that these external factors must be considered in any innovation strategy. It is less clear that they are sources of innovation fatigue. Nonetheless, this section of the book provides a useful survey of innovation challenges ranging from weak intellectual property regimes to the challenges of working with diverse university policies.

The book also includes chapters on culture, metrics, and government policy. It closes with a section offering “Further Guidance” and a list of 15 specific recommendations on how individuals, corporations, and policy makers can cooperate to overcome innovation fatigue.

The organization of the book is at times puzzling; for reasons that are not obvious, chapter 2 detours through an alternative to the funnel model of innovation that, although it’s an interesting idea, doesn’t at all fit the narrative of the book. However, the book offers a compelling discussion of the factors that lead to innovation fatigue that merits attention, particularly the discussion of organizational factors. The book is further recommended as a “quick read” that lends itself to a cross-country or transoceanic plane ride. The reader will arrive at his or her destination with some fresh insights or supported convictions in the field of innovation management.

Auto innovations would make Ford proud

September 23, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

Photo via Flickr

In my weekly column, I’ve been taking a look back a few decades to look at how innovation has evolved in the automobile industry. You might be surprised to learn that some of the cars that didn’t make it to the mass assembly line were actually quite advanced for their time:

From the perfection of the assembly line by Henry Ford at the turn of the 20th century to today’s push for development of practical electric motor technology, cars have always been at the forefront of innovation.

The list of innovations would be too numerous to mention with tens of thousands of patents underlying the development of today’s automobile.

Before the gasoline or diesel vehicle engine there were other types of motors along the way, including steam and many attempts at electric-powered vehicles. Even as far back as the early 1900s there were electric vehicles that had a range of almost 20 miles and could top 14 miles per hour. Although they worked well enough to be the dominant type of vehicle motor, the early models had dozens of heavy lead acid battery cells and generated only a couple of horsepower.

And even though the concept of a hybrid vehicle seems like a modern one, hybrids were being built as far back as 1911 by companies like the Woods Motor Vehicle Co. of Chicago.

Part of the motivation in those days wasn’t alternative fuels, but the fact that electric engines were less noisy, smoother running and didn’t smell bad. It also turns out that electric vehicles didn’t require gear changes, nor a hand crank to start. Since most roads of the day were in town, the limited range of electric vehicles were an ideal fit for the time.

As roads in the country began to be built, and as problems with gasoline engine transmissions were solved through innovations from people like Henry Ford, the gasoline engine began to dominate for the rest of the century.

In the 1990s, legislative and regulatory actions led to renewed interest in electric vehicles. Electric cars began to appear and with improvements in battery technology and materials engineering, practical models are being developed today, although they are still expensive.

Tesla motors has rolled out an all-electric sports car, and BMW has displayed their i3 scheduled for 2013 production. The i3 is an impressive all-electric vehicle made of lightweight carbon fiber and aluminum that is said to have a 100-mile range.

Automobile innovations haven’t been limited to the motor or drive train, but also to safety equipment and operation. The lives saved with the invention of safety belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and crash-absorbing vehicle design can’t be understated.

Who knows what other innovations the future will bring? I fully expect electric cars will become commonplace as problems are solved regarding range, charging times, and battery life and replacement cost. Even the quietness of the engine can be seen as a problem for pedestrians who might not hear an electric vehicle approaching.

Beyond the obvious and probably necessary evolution to the electric car, some other inventions that are fun to think about include practical airless tires, smart heads-up displays to warn of potential hazards ahead, and eventually even a true autopilot.

A smart, safe, efficient pilotless car — that’s an innovation we would all like to see.

The big change: should Facebook have checked with the crowd?

September 21, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Social Media

Today Facebook users got the shock of their social lives when they logged in only to discover that their newly-revamped News Feed wasn’t what they expected. It’s the most talked about topic not only on Facebook, but trending on Twitter and other networks as well. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this as a national news story tonight!

The issue is a change in how users view “Top Stories” and “Most Recent” links, because the program automatically decides for readers which stories are more important. never mind that the posts that are several hours old are mixed in with posts from five minutes ago.

The addition of the news ticker isn’t popular either. While it shows the latest posts in real time, there is no time stamp to tell you what time your friend or your page shared the information. The real confusion comes for Facebook Page owners, who are wondering if any of their fans and customers can see their stories and links. Give it another week and page owners will be able to see if the impressions and interactions are as frequent as they were before the new changes took effect.

So what is the overall reaction? Not good, if the posts and comments are any indication. A quick look shows me that while there are hundreds of complaints and negative comments, I have yet to see any positive feedback. Check out this story to see reaction from around the world, and be sure to scroll down and read some of the comments!

Will the new changes last? Only if Facebook decides not to heed the outcry from its millions of users. Google+ anyone?

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September 15, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation Fatigue

Many inventors, entrepreneurs and companies I’ve worked with have been embracing some unusual and unique creative strategies to deliver innovation and growth. It’s that kind of creativity that brings me to Portugal this morning, presenting at the 12th annual European Conference on Creativity and Innovation.

It’s a hands-on experience in which I am helping leaders identify key elements of what we call the Innovation Pyramid™ model necessary to build a solid foundation for translating creative ideas/inventions into innovation.

Yes, it is a strategy. But I liken it more to a journey in which we explore a new way of thinking about our businesses in a way that translates our team’s creative ideas and invention into innovation.

There are numerous obstacles in working in a creative environment, such as how we can manage creative people who have these great ideas but need some help turning those into tangible results that benefit their innovation efforts. Leaders also need to hone their culture and keep their innovators involved and engaged. That’s when leaders can harvest the fruits of human creativity.

Leading Game-Changing Open Innovation

September 14, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Open Innovation

I’m in Amsterdam, wrapping up a two-day Masterclass Collaboration Frameworks for Innovation workshop showing innovators a hands-on approach to leveraging internal and external networks to extend their capabilities. It’s been a fantastic experience both for me as a teacher/speaker and for those who are now going to apply all they’ve learned about the tools and strategies needed to deliver new growth.

I’ve long enjoyed my partnership with Pure Insight in bringing these new tools and processes to those who can put into practice insights and case studies to find immediate results.

We’re going beyond a typical conference or classroom-style environment to roll up our sleeves together to define not only the level of openness that you want to employ when dealing with partners, but the structure you need in your company and teams to accelerate and enable collaboration. These leaders already know that innovating outside of their organizational boundaries through collaboration is absolutely critical to growing their businesses. We’re upping the ante in how those deals and arrangements are structured, by setting a robust before, during and after collaboration framework for making the partnerships successful for all parties.

Hello McFly! New shoe propels Nike back to the future

September 12, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets, Cool videos

Here’s a story about an innovative shoe, and a unique way to get them sold for a much higher amount than what it takes to manufacture them, all for a good cause. Nike is teaming up with eBay to introduce one of the most futuristic—and expensive—shoes for the future. Nike’s 2011 MAG is inspired by the move Back to the Future II’s character Marty McFly and his amazing shoes that light up, but don’t power lace quite yet.

Thousands of fans went to the ebay auction site and helped raise nearly a million dollars for Michael J. Fox’s (the actor who played Marty) foundation to fight Parkinson’s Disease, which the actor has been battling for more than a decade. Interestingly, it is the fans who inspired the new shoe. Back in 2007 fans started a grassroots effort named McFly2015 to ask Nike to make the shoe with the automatic lacing system, which Nike tried to make. We’re not quite to the future yet though, and Nike is promising to launch those power laces by 2015—the year that Marty in the movie shows off his new shoes.

The popular film trilogy just celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, so fans are already looking for anything that they can get their hands on relating to the movies.

Nike released only 1,500 pairs of the shoes, and started its ten-day sale last week marketing to the highest bidder on its auction on eBay. Prices are already in the thousands!  Nike is donating all proceeds to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Google Founder Sergey Brin are matching donations up to $50 million.