Archive for the 'Innovation tools' Category

IXC-UK, a new addition to your Open Innovation toolkit


I’ve recently found out about another Open Innovation network with a different approach, the Birmingham, UK based Innovation Xchange UK, or IXC-UK. IXC originated in Australia 6 years ago although the model has only been operating in the UK for 2 years. This not-for-profit organisation applies a more hands-on approach to getting to know it’s client’s needs than other Idea marketplaces such as Innocentive or Nine Sigma.¬†Innovation experienced IXC intermediaries will “go native” by spending 1 day a week at the client site. This way they can really start to connect to the client’s requirements. The IXC also has a repository of innovation capabilities which the Intermediaries can access in confidentiality protected way. The Intermediaries get together on a regular basis and share problem situations that their clients are working on to see if someone in their network can provide a solution. Industry cross-over solutions are common because of the scope of the IXC network and because many IXC clients are global organisations, solutions can also come from anywhere. From what I’ve found out so far,¬†I think the IXC might well provide another dimension to¬†your Open Innovation toolkit.

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Open Innovation – an interview with Dr Bettina Von Stamm


Recently I met Dr Bettina Von Stamm of the Innovation Leadership Forum at the FDIN Breakthough Innovation seminar where she delivered a very interesting and insightful presentation on Open Innovation. Afterwards, I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions on the topic of Open Innovation for this blog and here is what she had to say:

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and about the Innovation Leadership Forum 

The Innovation Leadership Forum is the umbrella under which I conduct all my activities: anything to do with understanding and enabling innovation, primarily in large organizations. This includes teaching, writing, working with companies, and running a networking initiative. While I have been thinking and working around innovation for the past 16 years, the current networking group has been running since 2004 – though it built on a networking initiative, the Innovation Exchange, I ran for 5 years on behalf of London Business School. We started with 4 companies in 2004 and are now up to 17 subscribed members, some more are currently considering to join us. I would talk a lot more about this wonderful group – but I think the real interest here is around Open innovation. Those who’d like to find out more can always email me or have a look at the website.

2. What would you say are the main benefits of engaging in Open Innovation?

I always say that innovation happens when you connect previously unconnected bodies of knowledge. For me, that is what open innovation is about. It is also about allowing people with different perspectives and different backgrounds to take a look at our issues, problems, opportunities with a different set of glasses, a set of glasses that we would never put on. The way the human brain works means that we organize things in boxes, and not only that, we tend to stick new things into existing boxes, often ignoring the fact that they don’t really fit… This is one of the barriers innovation comes up against. By opening up to the outside world, and inviting others to look at issues through different glasses we might come up with entirely different solutions.

That was a rather long answer to your question; the short one would be: the main benefit of open innovation is that it allows us to access a large group of people with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking, which is key to innovation. 

There are other benefits, for example, working with external partners on an idea makes it more difficult for it to be killed; it would plainly be too public and embarrassing; especially with radical innovation this can be a considerable benefit.

Another is that all organizations have to manage their resources carefully. Tapping into outsiders can provide a useful additional resource. However, I believe that at some point in the future this may raise interesting questions about what organizations actually stand for – that becomes a rather philosophical discussion…

3. In what ways is Open Innovation different from earlier models of collaboration? 

I think that most other forms of collaboration are about problem solving Рrather than uncovering opportunities. In more traditional forms it seems to be the case that we identify a problem and then start to look for the right partner who can help us solve it. Open innovation is different; we are looking for external parties to help us uncover new areas of opportunity that we can, perhaps jointly, pursue. 

Implicit in the above is that we have to have a different mindset if we want to engage in open innovation. Here all the arguments about believing that we have all the talent inside our own organization, that we know best what our customer wants etc. come into play.

4. What steps would you advise an organization interested in engaging in Open Innovation to take?

Talk to some organizations who are doing it. but be careful, what is right for one organization is not necessarily the right approach for another. You need to understand your organization’s culture; you need to know which aspects would support open innovation and which aspects would get in the way. You need to work with both.¬†

You should also think about what the areas are where you are willing to share, where you are truly willing to open up. True collaboration only works if there are benefits for both parties, and both parties share openly and honestly. If it is one-sided Рas much of traditional subcontracting and outsourcing is Рit will not work. 

This also means that you need to think about what you can do to help develop trust and respect between the collaborating parties. Given that they might come from quite different perspectives, with different values and mindsets, you are in trouble otherwise (the prejudices we have against those who are different from us can be quite a powerful obstacle).  

5. What are the critical components you need for successful Open Innovation? 

In a way I have already mentioned it above:

  • A willingness to share
  • Trust and respect between both parties
  • A win-win situation
  • Structures and processes that enable and support open innovation, and provide a solid link back into the organization

 6. Specifically in terms of Breakthrough Innovation, why can an Open Innovation approach help? 

This comes back to my first point. We all suffer from what is called so wonderfully ‚ÄėBetriebsblindheit’ in German. It basically means you cannot see the wood for the trees. We get so used to our way of thinking and doing things that, at least for most of us, it is quite difficult to still see the patterns and rules according to which we are behaving and judging. As we all know, for radical innovation we need to think ‚Äėoutside the box’. Given the way our brain works this can be rather tricky, and it can be much easier for an outsider to see an entirely different approach or solution.

¬†My thanks to Bettina for this interview. One point which comes home to me from Bettina’s answers very clearly is that fundamental to Open Innovation is a new mindset which, in itself, needs to be “open”. Sometimes, in my view, this can be the biggest obstacle to innovation of them all.



Turning unconscious behaviour into insight

July 29th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovation tools

I’ve just watched a video on ethnosnacker which really brings to life how ethnographic research can uncover and rationalise unconscious and seemingly irrational behaviour. The video shows two shoppers making purchase decisions and they both illustrate a four step process all shoppers go through. the four steps are:

  1. find a reference point
  2. compare other products against the reference point
  3. chose the product
  4. final check

This insightful model has had profound impact on point of sale design across many categories. Very impressive – good one Siamack.

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Create a platform for your future product innovation

July 24th, 2008 | Category: Innovation direction,Innovation tools,Opinions

When setting out to deliver new breakthrough product offerings to your market, I have found that a key first step is to construct a picture of your current business, market and offer. By taking stock of your current situation in a multi-dimensional way you can set an innovation context to help you target future opportunities in a more effective way.  

When I work with my clients to create market breakthrough products, because I’m often new to their business and I need to get up to speed quickly, I run through a discussion guide covering all aspects of the innovation space available to their business in future. Of course, depending on the client business I will tailor the questions to suit but the overall structure for my interview is broadly shown in this diagram:


My first area of focus is around Business Direction, Processes and Value Model. The key areas I probe here are:

Values, Culture and Leadership:

  • What principles form the basis for behaviours within the organisation and, more specifically, what are the key criteria which provide the basis for prioritisation decisions? I will probe this area by referring to specific examples from the company’s innovation history.
  • Where does the key drive for innovation come from within the organisation? For example, is innovation initiated most commonly in sales, manufacturing or R&D?
  • What is the attitude to risk? Is decision making based on gaining consensus or through personal accountability?
  • How engaged is senior management in innovation activity?
  • What type of innovation mindset does senior management have? E.g. when they say they want a “break-though” do they really mean it?
  • How does the business Mission Statement relate to this innovation challenge?

 Business Processes, Financials, Business Model and Network: 

  • What product development process does the company operate?
  • What processes does the company follow to build its capabilities? E.g. recruitment, research, manufacturing, commercial, marketing and sales.
  • What processes does the company follow to generate revenues?
  • What other partners operate in the value chain and what are their financial investment and rewards?
  • Who are the key partners and suppliers?
  • How is the organisation funded?
  • What is the attitude to capital spending and valuation of assets? I probe around tangible assets and intangible assets (e.g. IP)

My second area of focus is the Market:

Market structure:

  • Who does the client sell their product or service to?
  • Who uses the product?
  • What does the market landscape look like? How does the client segment their market?
  • What is the geographic scope of the current market?
  • Who are the other stakeholders in the success of the product or service?

Category and brand values:

  • How does the client define their market category?
  • What does the client think the key considerations are for this category?
  • What does the client’s brand mean to consumers or customers in the category?
  • Given the current brand and category, how open to new products or services might the current consumer base be?
  • How are consumers and customers using the client’s product or service? What are the key consumer or customer problems that the product solves?
  • What are the underlying consumer or customer insights that form the basis for the product or service?

My final area of questioning is around the current Offering and Competitors:

Technologies, performance, value and context:

  • What technologies and capabilities are key to the client’s current competitive position?
  • Which areas of product or service performance are currently most important to consumers and customers?
  • What is the current pricing structure?
  • Are there critical considerations which might limit innovation such as surrounding infrastructure and large capital investments either by the client or their partners?

 The competition: 

  • Who is the main competitor?
  • Which competitor has the best-in-class performance?
  • Is there a key limitation which all products in the category suffer from?
  • Is there any competitor IP or other prior art which might limit future innovation?¬†

I’ve found this discussion guide to provide a very effective foundation for innovation. Due to the broad scope of the format, it brings out a comprehensive picture of the total innovation territory. It has often sparked some very useful discussion and has even generated fresh insights for the client.

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W L Gore says, if you’ve got it, show it off

I reecently saw in a Business Week Innovation blog a post about how WL Gore & Associates¬†have set up a “Capability Center” at its Barksdale, Delaware site in order to show off it products and technologies. The new facility was opened last year and was designed with the help of design agencies Carbone Smolan, IDEO and Homsey Architects. It’s not just intended to be used as a way to sell¬†to clients. Gore’s own business model means that the company’s thousands of employees (Associates?) are widely dispersed around the site. According to in interview with Gene Castellano, Project Director for the Capability Center “Bill Gore had ideas about organizational dynamics and as he evolved his company, he tried to maintain a culture that fostered small teams.” As a result of this, employees focus on individual businesses and are scattered across many buildings with little sense of the overall corporation. So the facility is also used to “sell” ideas and technologies internally, helping employees to think about novel applications and combinations of Gore technologies. I’ve seen a very similar approach at 3M where the periodic table of 3M technologies is showcased in a dedicated technology and innovation section of the UK 3M head office in Bracknell. Very impressive it was to especially when combined with the traditional 10% innovation time rule at 3M. Anyway, here are a couple of shots of the new facility at Gore to give you a flavour.

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Future Shapers – how to identify and engage influential lead users

At the FDIN conference on Breakthrough Innovation yesterday, I learnt about a more precise and reliable way to identify and engage with¬†influential lead users¬†to generate Breakthrough Innovations that really deliver brand growth. The presentation from TNS, highlighted an approach which can help you to screen for and work with people who are both “connectors” and “new consumers” in your target category (e.g. mobile phones, coffee, soft drinks etc.). A lot of the thinking here comes from¬†books such¬†as The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (incidentally a pretty good read) but also from consideration of the “adoption chasm” wherby many products used by early adopters never make it to the mass¬†market.¬†So, what should you look for to identify “connectors” and “new consumers”?


  • Have a big social network and act as hubs within it
  • Tend to have more friends
  • Talk about new things they’ve found
  • Are curious

New Consumers (for a specific category)

  • value authenticity and originality
  • are well informed and care about the category
  • are individualistic (they want things done “my way”)
  • are time poor
  • are socially responsible

By using a screening questionnaire against these traits it is possible to identify “future shapers” for your category. Typically “future shapers” are much more likely to identify ideas for future brand growth than “early adopters” who are often quite fad driven and can drop new ideas very quickly. Some stats were presented showing that there¬†is a good correlation between high “future shaper” rating for a product idea and actual brand growth, whereas, there¬†is a poor correlation between “early adopter” rating and brand growth. If it is true, they are really onto something, given how unpredictable Breakthrough Innovation often is!

You can use “future Shapers” in two ways, as participants (as opposed to traditional market research respondents) in idea generation and development/screening or you can engage them fully in your innovation task. TNS have found it best in engaging “future shapers” to give them thinking time (1 week) to bat around and develop ideas with their friends and they have found it useful to incentivise the idea generation with prizes.

Someone asked an interesting question about how you could reach and engage these “future shapers” if you were in an SME and TNS suggested that these people would be the people who¬†are most likely to¬†be passionately engaged with your product or service category. It was suggested that if you filter the responses and comments on your website with this in mind, you could identify and engage this sort of customer.

I liked the sharper focus this approach gives in terms of clearly targeting the most useful lead user profile. I’ll be getting some more informaton from TNS over the next few weeks and will post and update when I do.

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FDIN Seminar – Breakthrough Innovation for the Food and Drink Industry

Just got back from an excellent seminar, run by the Food and Drink Innovation Network¬†(FDIN). Lots of interesting stuff to share in future blogs on ways to improve your targeting of Lead Users and ways to engage them more fully in your innovation process, Open Innovation, Consumer Trends and¬†Emerging Packaging formats. Incidentally, the FDIN is a great source of information about¬†developments in the food industry and I make sure I get regular updates.ÔŅĹ

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Realsight quantitative anthropology provides a new way to get inside your consumer’s behaviour

I came across Realsight in an online forum and thought they had a very interesting and potentially powerful new way to identify innovation ideas in the Front End of Innovation.


Realsight uses a patent-pending technology system and a process they call quantitative anthropology to generate new ways to grow brands from everyday consumer behavior. They provide consumers cameras to film their own behavior while talking to them through online “blog” diaries about product decisions they have made over 3-4 weeks of “behavioral monitoring.” Then Realsight uses analytical tools to discover common product experiences from the thousands of observations of product usage events they capture. So, not only do they have a more complete consumer view than interview-based approaches (which, while¬†useful in themselves, can miss 90%+ of behavior), they quantify opportunities during the Front End of Innovation. Many of the product experiences they uncover are hidden deep within the everyday routines we all have to manage our lives, ones we can’t recall since we’re usually on “auto-pilot” trying to get through each day. These are the experiences that are difficult to uncover with existing Front End approaches, but valuable for companies as they happen almost every day!


Looks to be a good way to help take the “fuzzy” out of the Front End of Innovation.

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Oops! The importance of accidents in innovation

July 10th, 2008 | Category: Innovation tools,TRIZ tools

Just reading through the MIT sloan review I came across an article about how some of the most important innovations have come about as the result of an accident. The article goes on to say that there are good reasons for this as generally new things can be hard to create due to habits, routines and presumptions. Accidents can break us out of our previous thinking and move us to a new place. Whether it is a cure for small pox or the discovery of an interesting side effect of a potential heart medicine now known as Viagra, accidents have played an important part in bringing many new innovations to light.

To prepare for the article, the writers¬†talked to innovators in a number of fields‚ÄĒfrom design to manufacturing to fine art‚ÄĒwho make a point of seeking out “accidents” and incorporating them into their work.¬†They found that there are a number of practical strategies that can help managers leverage accidents into innovation such as:

Hire creative people and mix them up together

Give them unexpected assignments to keep their creative juices flowing. Expose members of your team to different industries or send them on conferences with experts from a different scientific area

Push the envelope. Explore the boundaries of your existing products of processes, what happens if you go over the edge?

make accidents cheaper. Find ways to increase learning at lower cost using tools such as rapid prototyping

Help them to squirrel away findings which don’t pan out immediately

Watch out for accidents of all sizes and avoid labelling unexpected outcomes as “failures”

Personally, I wouldn’t advocate doing the above without some idea of the most useful directions to explore and there are ways to scope¬†out and focus on¬†the areas of interest without unnecessarily constraining creativity. The tools of TRIZ in particular are excellent in shaping an ideal outcome (Ideal Final Result) which can really target deliberate accidents. I’ve learnt that, given guidance, a bit¬†of serendipity can be just the thing to boost innovation, even if it happens by accident.ÔŅĹ

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How a story can really help you get to know your customer

July 08th, 2008 | Category: Consumer centred,Innovation tools

They say the art of story telling is dead, but in terms of getting you closer to strong consumer insights, a story can still be a very powerful tool to use¬†in concert¬†with all the other consumer understanding tools such as observation, focus groups discussion, video diaries, pathmapping, protostorming etc. If you believe that in this era of video ethnography, one-to-one interviewing of consumers is still relevant (and I do), then getting your consumer to tell you a story about a subject is a great way to reveal their deepest feeling on the topic. Life’s experiences are remembered through stories and reviewing your consumers stories in a one-to-one interview can quickly and simply connect you with unmet and unarticulated consumer needs. If you get your consumer to prepare their story as a story board before your one-to-one interview, as the interviewer you also get an easy way to navigate the story and to track back to areas of particular interest.

A story board usually consists of an A3 sheet of paper onto which the consumer can stick cut-out pictures from a magazine or can draw pictures to illustrate their story. It doesn’t have to look fantastic (although some do) but it needs to support the story. Depending on the subject you want to research, you can start the storytelling task by asking the consumers to describe “the best” (e.g. the best shopping experience I ever had), “the last time” (e.g. the last time I had an indulgent hot drink), “the first time” (e.g. the first time I bought a TV), “Compare your ideal..with” (e.g. compare your ideal healthy food with the snacks you get in your vending machine), “the worst time” (e.g. the worst time I went to the cinema) or simply “tell me a one picture story about” (e.g. tell me a one picture story about a typical family mealtime). Usually, the story itself should be relatively quick to tell, but the interviewer will need to expand and explore interesting areas of the story. The story format can¬†also be set¬†around various time formats, such as, cyclical (e.g. daily, seasonal), event (e.g. holiday, birthday, weddings, special occasions) or stages (e.g. beginning, middle and end). During the interview, the interviewer (and obsever) should pay particular attention to the follow:

1. look out for conflicts, sacrifices or tensions that the consumer is experiencing, sometimes this will require probing

2. The visual layout of the story, look at the flow of the story and importantly, look for what is not shown. This can often be as important as what the consumer has chosen to show

3. the emotions in the story and delivery. Does the delivery match the emotional content, key into the emotions and probe areas which are particularly emotive

4. let the consumer go through the entire story first without interruption. Once the first cycle through the story is complete, you can go back to areas of particular interest.

I’m definitely not trying to put down other forms of research by focusing on story telling. What I’m doing is sharing a tool which I believe has significant value in the task of identifying powerful insights. In future posts, I’m planning to go through how you can take the outputs from¬†your consumer¬†research¬†and¬†condense and amplify¬†the most important elements of it to create key consumer themes.

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