Jul 12

An interview with myself

I was recently asked to answer a few questions on the Innocentive Open Innovation blog Perspectives of Innovation. As someone who shamelessly enjoys talking about myself, I thought it would be a good use of resources if I published it on my own blog too, so here goes…

1) Tell us a little bit about your background.

Originally I trained and was educated as a Mechanical Engineer. I’ve worked in the innovation area all the way through my career starting on design and projects and gradually moving further up to the front end. For the last 21 years I’ve worked for Mars Inc. until in May this year when I left to set up my own Innovation Consultancy, CoCatalyst Limited, helping clients who need market breakthrough products to target and implement new technologies. I have recently started a blog on this topic (http://www.CoCatalyst.com/blog) and I intend to use this to promote the latest thinking in the area. In my last role at Mars my team was responsible for identifying and bringing in new technologies for the Mars Drinks business, covering a very broad scope including packaging, food science, functional ingredients, electronics and control as well as mechanical engineering. I continue to be very passionate about innovation and I have expertise in a number of key innovation tools, probably one of the most relevant to solving Innocentive challenges being TRIZ.

2) How did you come across InnoCentive?

I came across InnoCentive as a potential solution seeker at Mars. At that time the cost of entry was too high for me to pursue. From what I’ve learnt recently about InnoCentive the business model has since changed significantly. I came into closer contact with InnoCentive more recently when preparing to present to a UK Government body on Open Innovation marketplaces.

3) What kinds of Challenges are you most interested in?

I am most interested in challenges which require a significant breakthrough. I am attracted to problems which, from a TRIZ perspective, jump out at me as analogous to problems I have solved before (upwards of 150 and counting with 50+ patents to my name) or where I can clearly understand the limitation (contradiction) of the current state of the art. This helps me to get a feel for the sort of benefit I might be able to deliver if I can resolve the problem. The other factor I will consider almost immediately is do I know someone in this area who I could team up with. I have a big network with contacts in many industries. For this reason, I do not restrict myself to a specific technological field – I think the “Disciplines” menu gets in the way a bit for me although I appreciate others will find it helpful. Also, for the same reason, I would like to be able to see all the challenges in the regular weekly updates I get. Another thing that can put me off a challenge is when the seeker constrains the solution to a potentially non-optimal outcome (e.g. to specify that something new should be added to the problem rather than resolve the root problem). I’ve seen this happen a number of times on Innocentive and, in fairness, on Nine Sigma too – it bugs me when I come across this sort of solution limiting thinking.

4) You recently wrote on your blog, “I haven’t actually answered any Innocentive Challenges although I have recently seen one that I might have a go at.” Can you tell us about the Challenge you want to answer, and what piqued your interest?

I’ve had a look at a couple of the ideation challenges, one for more energy efficient air conditioning (INNOCENTIVE 6237014) because a breakthrough solution could have a big impact, another one around reducing the energy needed to fire ceramics (INNOCENTIVE 6446157) and one to do with increasing the cooling effect of clothing in hot conditions (INNOCENTIVE 6470343). This one appeals because I’m a cyclist! I guess a common theme here is they all are to do with heat transfer.

5) What do you think are the biggest opportunities for Solvers in this new era of Open Innovation?

For individual solvers I need to start my answer with a caveat: if solver’s rights can be protected through the Open Innovation processes then their biggest opportunities are in being able to bring their capabilities to the attention of big companies, in ways which can be properly mutually beneficial. For larger companies acting as solvers the opportunity is to grow the market for their technologies by making cross-industry connections.

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