Archive for the 'Interesting books' Category

Social Networking best practice for effective Open Innovation

February 09th, 2009 | Category: Interesting books,Networking,Open Innovation


Recently I’ve been reading Driving results through social networks by Bob Cross. I wanted to read this book because I’m looking for insights into the latest thinking on building new external Value Networks for organisations engaged in Open Innovation. Although a lot of the book is focused on the important area of improving internal networks within organisations I was struck by the section of the book dealing with behaviours which can energise networks both inside and outside of organisations. Here are the behaviours which were encouraged:

1. Do what you say you’re going to do and address tough issues with integrity. Cross says that people are energised by people that stand for something bigger than themselves. I would put it more simply – trust is important for any form of networking to work. Being consistent helps to build trust.

2. Look for realistic possibilities in conversations and avoid focusing too early or heavily on obstacles. Clearly this behaviour is critical to getting people to offer and build on ideas. I would say that Cross could go further here by suggesting that sometimes you have to suspend disbelief for a while and go with a conversation. I think the word “realistic” is a bit of a dangerous word to apply to early stage conversations as it implies an “already listening” mindset where it is easy to screen out options which might have potential when combined with other input from elsewhere in the network.

3. Become mentally and physically engaged in meetings and conversations. I would suggest that this can be take even further by bringing real enthusiasm to the interaction. I’ve often found that injecting enthusiasm into a discussion at the right time can help propel the development of new ideas. Often the other person in the conversation is already passionate about the subject area and reflecting rather than dampening that can really help to bring out new ideas and insights.

4. Be flexible in your thinking and use your expertise appropriately. I often advise clients to engage with external/internal experts from complimentary disciplines to support their decision making. This practice, in itself, is part of the process of opening up the innovation activity.

5. When you disagree, focus on the issue at hand and not the individual. This is pretty obvious really, but if this rule is ignored the trust can quickly disappear from an interaction.

The book contains some good advice, especially for senior managers wishing to improve performance of their business and even includes a section on calculating the value of a network. From my viewpoint I was hoping for a little more on Open Innovation and external networks.

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The new age of innovation?

I’ve just watched C.K. Prahalad being interviewed on Business Week, talking about his new book “The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks” Prahalad talks about the new needs of innovation being driven by four big changes in the competitive landscape:

1. Global connectivity, where up to 4 billion people will be on-line

2. Digital technologies becoming more available through increased convenience and lower cost

3. Convergence of industry boundaries and technologies, e.g. a cell phone is also a computer a watch and a camera

4. Evolution of social networks

In Prahalad’s view this is driving big shifts in innovation away from industrial revolution thinking, where the key considerations of innovation were the form and product as the source of value, to a situation where one consumer has a very personalised experience provided from a concentration of a¬†very broad range of resources. An example of this is the iPod, where a user builds¬†his or her¬†own very personalised experience while Apple (who don’t¬†manufacture the¬†device or prepare the content) facilitates this by bringing together a wide range of resources from aroung the world. This Prahalad, rather snappily, describes as “N=1, R=G”. He goes on to contrast this new model with the previous view of the world, highlighting three key differences:

1. While the product may be a small part of the experience, the key thing for the consumer is the experience.

2. This experience is co-created by the consumer. For example, Apple can’t tell you which¬†content to play on your iPod. All they can do is provide a platform for you to chose the content. You become an integral part of the value creation.

3. The experience cannot be created without the collaboration of a wide range of different institutions, creating a whole eco-system of contributors to your personalised experience.

These three points contribute to the shift away from the old innovation approach of form being the unit of analysis and product being the source of value, the old innovation approach being epitomised by the Model T Ford. Prahalad argues that this new model doesn’t just apply to systems like iPod and iTunes but will also apply to other, less glamorous¬†products such as tyres or shoes.

Prahalad sees two fundamental challenges for management:

1. To change the way we look at the world, to see our consumers as an active parts of the experience creation process. In this new world, there are two joint problem solvers the company and the consumer. What impact might this have on future business strategy?

2. how to change information management systems to match these shifts. He see this area as a major source of competitive value.

So, to summarise, if you’ve gone with this argument so far, our job as innovators becomes one of¬†building new platforms on which our consumers can create their own experiences. This all seems to align well with the TRIZ evolution of the technological customisation system. The next step after this from a TRIZ viewpoint is that the system itself customises the consumer’s experience with no intervention required from the consumer.¬†ÔŅĹ


My reading list just got bigger

July 06th, 2008 | Category: Interesting books

I’ve recently come across a couple of new books which ought to be worth a read. Currently, I’m in the middle of The Game Changer by A.G. Lafley, head of P&G¬†and Ram Charan, a top management consultant. So far the main theme I’m getting is that to make innovation stick it should come from the top, consistently and with positive reinforcement. Credit due, for P&G I reckon the whole connect and develop initiative was quite an inspired change of direction in 2000, based on the very internally focused approach to R&D which existed in P&G up until then. The book¬†is somewhat better than the review I mentioned before led me to believe. So far the book seems reasonably light on Innovation motherhood. Still, I’ve¬†got a fair bit of reading to do as yet so there’s time for disappointment.

Another book that is on my reading list is the latest Gary Hamel book “The future of management”. This book is interesting because it oulines something I felt for a while, how organisations are most often less human that the people who work in them, less inspiring, adaptable, innovative and less engaging. Gary Hamel thinks this is due to the control systems, budgeting, processes and reviews that take place within large organisation, leaching adaptability and innovative thinking out of the very people who are critical to the future of the organisation. Hmm.. sounds a familiar enough story, doesn’t it?¬†The book is sure to contain lots of other good stuff, sounds like a must read.


Finally, a book building on the message from the Game Changer – Innovation to the core by Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson, pulls together a range of examples from leading innovative companies such as Nokia, GE, P&G and IBM to create a blueprint for how to transform your business and get Innovation into the DNA of your corporation. Interestingly they cover a systematic process for generating compelling insights. I wonder if it bears any similarity to the way I do it. I’ll have to buy it and find out.


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