In the last week of June, BlueCallom hosted its third Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable. The topic gravitates around the question: “how to become more innovative and how to inspire employees to support the innovation process.”

As you may know by now, BlueCallom’s Roundtable is a virtual gathering of selected innovation managers. Many of them work in well-known companies such as Coca-Cola, BASF, Bayer, Dormakaba, DPD, FujiFilm, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, NGK Japan, Nissan Motors, Novartis, Philip Morris, Porsche, Roche, SAP, and Sony. The purpose of this gathering is to share insights, perspectives, experiences, and potential solutions to new innovation challenges.

 

Innovation Culture

Right after opening the discussion, “Innovation Culture” within enterprises became a dominant challenge. Kevin Minier, an expert in the UK Health and Social Care Sector, explained this by saying that “cultural change is needed especially if we want to avoid the big barrier in communication between employees”. Now, it’s clear that when it comes to innovation, employee satisfaction plays a big role.

The real challenge is in the organization itself and as Jonathan Wiesman from PassCare USA, mentioned: “some companies are already providing the top-down and bottom-up meetings between the company’s employees to find out what real employees’ value and purpose is.” One thing must be clear – Innovation can’t be successful if there is a fear present and not knowing where you fit in the ecosystem. Another worrying fact is that today’s innovators are having few side jobs, which means they can not truly dedicate themselves to innovation.

Axel Schultze, CEO of the BlueCallom company, shared one example: “Tesla Inc. today is ten times more valued than Mercedes-Benz and the reason is Tesla has a stellar innovation team which makes innovation happen.”

Other interlocutors, Mikel Mangold Innovation Project Manager at Venture Lab NGK SPARK PLUG, Christian Weh Senior Director Innovation at Johnson & Johnson, and Robert Clougherty Founder at rjclougherty.net agreed that the most important thing should be creating opportunity and an environment where innovation can thrive! And again emphasis is on establishing an innovation culture that allows you to find the best talents in the organization. In big organizations, as Mikel Mangold said, there is a lack of flexibility to choose the people we want to work with and that’s why many ideas get discarded. Steffen Ohr, Vice President Innovation bei Sihl Group, added that an Organisation needs to get a clear mandate to innovate from the highest level. That’s true for all functions but particularly important in the area of innovation when you touch new and unknown areas.

If the company is not recognized as innovative, where will they get talented experts? This question was asked by Christian Weh who also pointed out that companies are losing opportunities to hire the best talents because they can’t provide them with the innovation culture. The winning combination is a passion for innovation and a clear purpose i.e. what is the role of the innovation process. As you see, all our innovation experts mentioned the team – the importance of having the right people who are willing to do the changes, to come up with new ideas and solutions.

 

Role of Employees in the Innovation Process

The second part of this gathering was devoted to employees and their role in the innovation process.

Christian Weh made a very clear point if a team has no well-understood innovation mandate. Just asking people to innovate and come up with ideas is not getting teams anywhere.  Having a mandate, Robert Clougherty pointed out “all employees have their strong sides/skills and the Innovation Manager should be able to recognize it and use it to make the solution they work on truly unique.” Open communication, building trust, prioritizing learning, and keeping humanity at the center of the work are something that is needed in every organization. Having feedback from the employees and clients gives a wider picture which will lead us to better innovative solutions. So instead of asking employees to be more creative, ask them to document problems they see in a company and problems they have with clients.

Tony Namulo, Customer Experience and Success Director at Tavale, mentioned the concept of hackathons where different people with different skills get together to work on the things they are passionate about. Hackathons are a fun way to push boundaries, encourage creativity, and in the end gain inspiration or unique ideas.

When it comes to employee efficiency, except networking and hackathons, we have to mention Think Tanks where a group of people is designated to create innovative solutions to problems. With the right mindset and sense of purpose, almost any group can operate as a think tank.

Talking about the employees’ role in the innovation, we also talked about how to boost internal innovation. Mikel Mangold once again mentioned how important communication is inside the company – colleagues have to work together, they have to organize meetings and sessions, exchange their thoughts and results will be visible.

Kevin Minier said something I was surprised with – leaders are often put on a pedestal, but in reality, none of us are perfect and it is totally ok to be vulnerable, even if you are a C-level manager. Vulnerable leaders are better able to engage with their staff and as a result, they gain trust which is crucial to forming stronger teams.

Steffen Ohr said that in the company he works for, they continuously ask for market feedback. In the beginning, to prove the value of a new product/service on the market they ask for small funding. Based on the feedback they either intensify their efforts to create a real prototype or stop the project immediately. They also prepare an opportunity sheet and demonstrate if it’s scalable. The full focus is on getting feedback from the market.

 

Keys Aspects of Being More Innovative

To summarize this Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable, some of the key aspects of being more innovative include:

  1. Innovation teams have to be full time committed to innovation
  2. Having a clear directive to either innovate or continue to improve
  3. Executive-level leadership with a clear innovation mandate is required
  4. Building a culture of innovation in an organization

The team at BlueCallom will continue the Innovation Thought Leader Roundtable exchange. If you are interested in joining our next by-invitation-only event, please send us an email: tanja@bluecallom.com

Enterprises don’t need to fear disrupters,
but the disruption in the capital market

A growing number of enterprises feel the headwind from capital markets. Up and coming businesses get valuations far above conventional businesses that may be more than ten times as big. Those warning signals all too often are simply ignored. But that could become a fatal mistake.

Innovation takes 7 to 10 years

Theoretically, enough time for any established market player to respond and fight back. But it isn’t quite that easy. If you look at the early years of the then, new automaker, Tesla, you notice that the established players sold more cars in some metropolitan cities in a month than Tesla sold globally in an entire year. Airbnb sold so few vacation rentals a year that established hotel chains didn’t even notice. Early freelancer platforms connect some inexpensive workers with businesses who had a short-term need in a way that the established recruiting firms didn’t even take the time to understand their business. Now, some people may say this is ignorance. But taking the sheer number of companies that have tried something and failed into consideration, an enterprise cannot respond at any brain spark that may happen in this world. However, one group does take that time and effort for a very different reason.

Financial Market Analysts get Extremely Smart


In the past years, top investment firms completely disrupted the financial market. Yet it went almost unnoticed. With far more detailed insights, more intelligent tools, and evolving algorithms, they are able to predict the success probabilities of a new market entrant to a degree that was unimaginable just a few years ago. CEOs, Board Members, Unions, and Investor representatives will need to shift gear when it comes to innovation. Future-oriented investment decisions drive market caps (value of a company) into new directions. It’s no longer only in the tech space but now also in all other industries like the auto industry, the tourist and hospitality industry, in the business services where a substantial shift is happening: The capital market favors innovation over profitability and size. One newcomer in that market is investment management company ARK-Invest who states on their website We Invest Solely In Disruptive Innovation. And the reason is obvious; in the next 10 years, it is more likely that those new and innovative businesses will win, than the established and slowly evolving companies.

Innovation is Entering all Industries

We randomly choose Hospitality, Automotive, and Business Services in our research. You can see how companies with rapid growth into a large industry segment, while there is no or no adequate response from the current market leaders are seen by the capital market today.
AIRBNB
2007 first 3 guests – the company was founded
2009 21,000 guests
2018 300 Million guests
2021 market cap $93 Billion *
2021 Hilton market cap $36 Billion *
TESLA
2012 2,000 or so cars
2015 35,000 cars
2020 1,000,000 cars
2021 market cap $570 Billion *
2021 Daimler market cap  $84 Billion *
FIVERR
2010 Some 1,000 jobs at $5 each
2012 estimated $6 Million
2018 estimated $100 Million in revenue
2021 market cap $7 Billion *
2021 Kern Ferry market cap $3.1 Billion *
at $2 Billion in revenue
* = June 15, 2021

Is the world insane? Then, what was with the market caps of Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Google Facebook, and so forth. What happened to their competitors like DEC, Amdahl, Zilog, Alta Vista, AOL, or MySpace? Today the disrupters are identified much earlier and get evaluated much earlier to higher levels. Not to help them and not to kill others. The new behavior is only a logical consequence of the desire to be in a rising giant early. The advantage for established enterprises: They get a brand new early warning system. But even then, there is a potential for huge mistakes as you can see in our mini case study below.

Innovate or Get Disrupted

Trying to counter-attack a market intruder that has a disruptive business model or disruptive product, by trying to build something better is not leading to any success. A weak attempt to focus on “Gradual Innovation”, which is nothing but improvement, is definitely not an adequate response either. The only way to counter an innovation from a competitor, no matter what size or age, is by another groundbreaking innovation. Improvement is important – but it isn’t withstanding an innovation. Trying to be better than the new innovator is only an improvement and makes the former leader a follower of the new innovator.

MERCEDES BENZ CASE STUDY
The Daimler AG was an investor in Tesla. But eventually lost interest and sold the shares. Tesla was built on 5 unique aspects: 1) A very fast electric motor 2) New high capacity batteries 3) A big display giving space to all kinds of information 4) A digital experience that went far beyond the proprietary “Board Computer” and 5) A customer experience not seen from the conventional carmakers.
The competition only saw the electric motor and battery. They also did not see the timeline that it took 5 years from introducing the first Tesla to getting it at least a bit off the ground. Chevrolet killed its EV short after launch because they thought the market does not exist. Mercedes ignored it completely, then began to invest and built the EQ series. But it was only the replacement of the motor and tank for an electric motor and batteries.
Only with the EQS, Mercedes finally pushed the innovation button in many ways – BUT – chose not to really talk about it. Still, a market leader by the volume of cars they produce, Mercedes became a follower and did not push their innovation but what Tesla has since 10 years: Motor, Battery, and a “hyper display”. The digital experience and also the customer experience fell behind. And the innovation they made was not even mentioned. When the tough gets going the going gets tough.

Instead of standing their ground and continuing rejecting a large display in or on the dashboard and introducing their innovative head-up display – they competed in a space that has no future for both cars. Instead of drumming up their real innovation, they ignored it because they did not understand what customers want. The innovative MBUX system with a large display mirrored on the windshield, supported by a perfect and unique augmented reality system was not part of the competition. The leader turned into a follower and the capital market recognized it. How is this possible?

Things you can do to correct the current direction

Innovation is everything but a small club of thinking and researching innovators playing in their innovation labs.
1) It needs an innovation mandate from the CEO.
2) It needs a robust innovation strategy that is blessed by the board
3) It requires innovation managers with exceptional talents and abilities – not skills.
4) An innovation process that empowers the team to develop brilliant ideas and then conducts relentless execution.

THE FIRST STEP however is an innovation readiness assessment that makes sure you have the foundation for what is coming.
BlueCallom offers free Innovation Readiness Checks with no obligation at all.

WHY DO WE CARE EVEN BEYOND OUR OWN BUSINESS
Part of that first step is the understanding that by 2050 we will want to change our energy supply, the energy grid, or whatever we can create, we need renewable energies and tap into energy sources we don’t even think of today. We will want to create transport infrastructure for people, goods, and service infrastructure that is far beyond our today’s abilities. We need to have digitized commerce, business transactions, return services, and handling that is far more intelligent than today. We want to make sure that our health systems, health understanding, and sources for health failure are much better structured, organized, affordable, and available. While we could theoretically feed all people on earth even with a 20 billion population it works only if we can integrate those 20 billion people as contributors to our global society, economy, and humanity. Today only a handful of people seriously try to engage in terraforming mars or build a lunar station. That is far too less to be effective and far too less to prevent new monopolies.

Innovation opportunity for enterprises. What worked for startups can now also work for enterprises. Even the innovation process would be the same. And purpose and reasoning should be the same too. The only difference is the leadership structure. And that requires a new understanding of what actually makes the difference between the two company types today.

No – it has nothing to do with size or capital, And yes both are driven by human beings.

Over the past four years, we learned so much about the difference between innovation in corporations and in startups that we today realize: Enterprises had not even a chance to be innovative even when acquiring a startup.  The full details can be downloaded as a Whitepaper

HOW ARE INNOVATIVE IDEAS CREATED
When thinking of innovation it is most helpful to understand how homo sapiens is performing the creation of innovative ideas. Without knowing how innovation is done, it is hard to manage the process and innovation remains to be a process. The key learning is that ideas are composed by our neurons from past experiences. There is no mechanism that just “creates” ideas.

INNOVATION PURPOSE
Without exception, the most innovative solutions were created in an attempt to solve a problem. Random experimentation and hoping to find a great idea never led to groundbreaking innovation. Innovation is an outcome – it cannot be a desire.

RETHINKING INNOVATION
When we know how innovation is created, we can request certain results, request to provide insights, and measure and manage the effort. Most importantly executives know what they are asking, even where and what to innovate.

INNOVATION READINESS
When you know the “what and how”, you can make sure that your business is ready to innovate in the first place and prevent unnecessary costs and delays.

INNOVATION MANAGEMENT
After all – innovation management can be performed like most other mission-critical activities, teams can be selected in accordance with the requirements and tasks and results become predictable and timely.

INNOVATION FINANCING
Successful innovations consumed more than $100 Million in funding, some reached into two-digit billion-dollar investments. Obviously, this is done in stages and in line with progress, KPIs, and timelines. Comparing it with a $500,000 startup would be a huge mistake because that was only their starting point.

FOLLOWING IS NO INNOVATION
Obviously, you can catch up with the market to survive. But the financial market will recognize it accordingly. A follower will not beat the innovator – not on the market cap.

RELENTLESS EXECUTION
Innovation is one of the intellectually most demanding jobs. Not only does it take 100% focus, it also requires relentless execution and the motive to do so. The Innovation Culture, team selection, and motivations are the ultimate driver of successful innovation.

The BlueCallom Deep Innovation Design method was modeled and shaped based on all the findings from our research and our own experiences, building 4 innovative businesses and helping hundreds of startups to get there too.

Whitepaper Download here.

 

 

Innovation speed or perfectionWhat is time to innovate?

The time between the day when the need to innovate is recognized to the day the first version of a prototype is in the market. Innovation speed or perfection? Go for speed any time.

For instance: The need or the dream to have an internet connection in any place in the world, land, or water is as old as the Internet itself. But in 2015, Elon Musk had an idea how to solve it. In Feb 2018, he created a company called StarLink. Today in 2021, we have full coverage, and in the next few years, it will be a standard. By 2025 people will realize that over 30,000 satellites are in orbit and connect all of us any time from anywhere. Look back and wondering how this could happen. Very much how we wonder why there is only one search engine to be considered serious, one computer operating system, one super large social network, one shopping platform, and soon one internet provider. We all heard of StarLink; but so far, nobody dares to compete. Is California or Silicon Valley a time capsule in itself? Time seems to run much faster – but only because we don’t hear a lot from China, in particular Shenzhen.
Only a few decades ago, Shenzhen was a collection of quiet farming and fishing villages. Today, the city is among the world’s leading innovation hotspots—in other words, the perfect location for our Airbus China Innovation Centre (ACIC).

If you want to innovate on Shenzhen speed you got to be even faster. Does it feel impossible? Yes, it does but only due to our massive overhead. If we don’t watch it, we will end like the britsh empire in 1900 or the Roman Empire in 1600 or Egypt or Mesopotamia or or or.

Western innovation labs, where are your results?

Innovation speed or perfection. In the past 20 years, several hundred innovation labs had been incepted. Yet, the outcome is more or less nonexistent. Yes, there had been nice improvements, some fun stuff, and maybe a few marketing Giggs. But nearly no groundbreaking innovation. They came all from startups. Something major may have gone wrong in those “Lost 20 years,” as one of the top Japanese executives told me recently. Everybody looked at startups because they seem to do something right. However, we all know 90% fail, and if you look at them, you will fail too. We all heard it “Innovation needs amazing creativity, and you can’t enforce it” – ok, so make innovation playgrounds with meditation, lego play games, sing together, and do sports together.  Hmmm – the unicorns show relentless execution, amazing speed; they work under enormous pressure. TIME seems to be a silver bullet. Very much like Elon Musks demonstrates it every day. When I founded my companies and watching my peers and the hundreds of startups we worked with, the best of the best were constantly full of adrenaline.

Groundbreaking Innovation in 40 days

We wanted to know:  What is the Innovation speed limit? The answer: 40 days right now. We can create groundbreaking innovation and validate the concept and bring it to market in 40 days. While most people are driven by their schedule, which is driven by others, who drive other agendas, and so forth, we need to put a stake in the ground NOW. The Nespresso Capsul took 15 years from idea to market success. The Tesla automobile took 15 years from inception to market success. Facebook took less than 10 years, Starlink probably less than 7 years. And the upcoming generation will be even faster. The western world already lost the first race against the red dragon in China. But we are used to not give up, to not surrender – to get up and compete.

Dare to compete

Some people use pacemakers to keep their heart beating – what is your business using? In a few days, we start with the global Ingenuity Cup. The promise is to get to groundbreaking innovation in 40 days. So far, most contestants are startups. While under huge pressure to deliver a real innovation for the first time, enterprise teams are struggling to make quick decisions, get approvals, find ways to put all the other administrative work to the side, and are fearful of failing. We MUST break through that barrier.

Dare to break all barriers and walls

  • You have no time? Never say this again. Take the time for what is most important.
  • You need approval? I don’t think so, because you have a mission.
  • You have other e important things to do? Stop innovating – it’s a waste of time doing it on the side.
  • You worry about your career? 5 years without success in an innovation lab is 25% of your career wasted already.
  • The next company won’t take you !!!!

Mr CEO, tear down that wall

Make your innovation teams play by the rule of global markets, global timelines, global competitors, global speed limits, and compete against everything and everybody. Innovation playground time is over. Every unicorn on earth competes with relentless execution, other nations have no rules and no limits. If you spend more time protecting what you have than investing it into future solutions, you, your board, and investors declare the limits of your abilities.

 

Dare to join the Ingenuity Cup even last minute.

Calculating the value of an innovation

BlueCallom Equation IntroductionOne of our early objectives was to easily describe the value of our work. It is not easy as Innovation has so many moving parts and the fact that enterprises around the world are feverishly trying to find better ways to achieve groundbreaking innovation and not just improvement is a testimony for its complexity. We tried to distill our value contribution down to neuro ideation, innovation opportunity discovery, innovation-to-market method, innovation financing, reporting, Innovation KPI framework, multi-user digital canvas technology, genetic computing technology AI usage, and a few other things. One aspect recently rose very prominently in conversations with users and customers: a very close relationship between brilliant ideation and relentless execution. However, there was an inner conflict: It is described in a blog post written a few years ago: The Initial value of an idea is zero. How could something of no value sparked multi-billion dollar businesses and disrupts entire industries if it has no value? It just needed to turn on of course but what value is it then? It reminded me of something I learned in quantum mechanics, that I quantum state can be seen as having two states at the same time. Every idea can too. As we learned from neuroscience, an idea is a clearly defined “object in our brain that is composed of past experiences”.  The trick is to use it or not. Unused its value is zero and used its value turns into one. The value of one is still not a lot but multiplied with execution that leads to exponential growth makes the one incredibly valuable.  Let’s not get deeper into quantum physics as it is just an analogy but look how this concept changes our understanding of innovation.

The two key aspects, that make or break groundbreaking innovation:

  1. Finding a brilliant idea that leads to innovation

  2. Making the idea a reality and bringing it to market with relentless execution

Harnessing the duality of ideation and execution is where BlueCallom makes the biggest difference. Moreover developing the BlueCallom Equation, paved the way for making innovation predictable, creating Innovation Forecasts, calculating an Innovation Lifetime Value, and an Innovation ROI. Groundbreaking Innovation (G)  = Ideation (I) * Execution(E)².

G = I * E² 

The meaning of G

For the development of innovation processes, we needed to make a statement of what we understand by the term INNOVATION, in particular groundbreaking or disruptive innovation is not Improvement. It became even more important when trying to find a way to calculate an innovation value. There are hundreds of different definitions of what innovation means. The following definition is made to make our methods and technology clear, and also what our equation is addressing.

Innovation is the introduction of a
groundbreaking elevation in the way
people do things and ensuring
a successful global distribution.

It often results in disruption, how
industry segments conduct business.

Innovation is not the same as Improvement. For more clarity, we use Groundbreaking Innovation (G)

The creation of I

To get to groundbreaking innovation you need an amazing idea. And since we know, thanks to neuroscience, how innovative ideas get created, we can go one major step further: Making the innovation a reality. Not only by building a prototype but bringing that innovation to life in global markets. Some years ago I wrote a provocative blog post: “The initial Value of an Idea is ZERO” and that has not changed. There have been many known cases where people bought an idea for $1. With that payment, the idea had legally changed ownership. So we can assume that the buy-in of a team developing such an idea has the value of one – assume any currency. The idea is the must-have ignition to innovation, yet has no big value to anybody – yet. The value is created through execution. Every startup knows – it gets embossed in their neurons by every investor. And there is an important effect to be observed: Any successful innovation – ever created – was following an exponential growth rate. Hence the E².  But with no execution: 1 * 0 = 0 – in other words, the lack of execution makes the innovation value zero.

The significance of

  1. Innovation Timeline
    Innovative solutions take quite a while to get accepted in the market. And there is no shortcut. The larger part of the market participants is rather careful and conservative. It took a few years until the name Tesla even made it to News. It took even longer until Amazon became a household brand. The first two years, Computer 2000 and TechData had a tough start. But 10 years later both bypassed 8,000 competitors which never understood the level of disruption our business models had. Today the merged and combined company is doing nearly 40 Billion in revenue. The inflection point when the so-called “Hockey Stick” kicks in and turns the slow start is recognized as part of an exponential growth curve, it is too late for many companies to seriously compete.
  2. Innovation Management
    Managing an “Innovation to Market” process is an ART and a SCIENCE. One of the key aspects of the science part is the understanding that innovative products will never be purchased by conservative customers, which is the largest audience. One of the arts to get it to scalable results is to know when the broader audience is ready to engage. Today the function of “Innovation Management” is widely underestimated or even completely misunderstood. Innovation management could also be called “Innovation Value Management”. It is all about creating value from a disruptive innovation that has usually the DNA of a unicorn – no matter whether it is a corporate or startup unicorn.
  3. Equation
    * An idea, as a result of any kind of ideation, has a fixed initial value of zero.
    * Once a team is intending to use the idea and make it a reality, the value of such an idea becomes one (1).
    * As soon as the innovation is given to users and they see a value for them and start using the product, the value increases above 1. Here it can potentially grow exponentially based on the energy somebody puts into execution. The energy that is put into execution should become proportional to the value growth of the innovation if the execution is done right.

This also explains why some of the innovative products are perceived as “Overhyped” in the eyes of normal observers.  Only after carefully analyzing the innovation’s growth path and rate, capital markets react and may look unrealistic. This was experienced with almost every Silicon Valley IPO and afterward, those technological advances became the new normal and ever more often dominating entire markets. The   in the BlueCallom Equation can now also explain that behavior of seemingly hyped values that turned out to be valuable over time. The BlueCallom Equation is represented in the BlueCallom Deep Innovation Design model as well as in the architecture of the BlueCallom Innovation Management Software (code name ‘deep’).

 

Debunking 100+ Innovation Methods

G=I E² is more than just a formula for groundbreaking innovation, describing the duality between ideation and execution.  It is describing the foundation of any successful innovation effort or process.

* Innovation Team Structure

Brilliant innovation and relentless execution is not a job that a person can do on the side. It’s the opposite – innovation development is one of the most demanding engagements in any business anywhere in the world. The equation also makes clear what the innovation management’s responsibility is.

* Execution – Execution – Execution
It demonstrates the value relation between the idea itself and the execution process after the idea was created. It’s all about execution and that has never been even a consideration in innovation management.

* Time is of essence

It shows the importance of the factor time in the execution from zero to the max. In conventional innovation playgrounds, teams had infinite time. The outcome was zero. Unicorns ran like crazy and that made a huge difference.

* Innovation KPIs
How innovation teams achieve probability calculations, ROI, etc. to develop more robust innovation plans.  Only robust KPIs can indicate performance. The number of idea contributions, the value of the contribution, market validation, innovation confluence data, timelines, budgets, degree of disruption, adoption rates, growth pattern, and more. The number of projects can’t be one of them.

* The end of Innovation Kindergarten
The equations expose why empirical experimentation, pivoting, random brainstorming, and other “exercises” just could never lead to groundbreaking innovation. Lego games and dancing, meditation, and other relaxation is really nice – but cannot be the core of the top job of any industry leader.

 

What can be done to make your organization more innovative?

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the rules for conducting business. Now more than ever, innovativeness is one of the essential characteristics that a company needs to develop in order to stay competitive in the changing economic landscape and new trends in consumer behavior. In order to keep your customers happy or attract new customers, the introduction of new business services, products, or processes will be the key to ensuring your organization’s future success. So, how do you foster a working environment that supports innovation within your organization?

In this post, I’ll discuss four proven strategies to enhance the innovative dimension of your company.

1) Embrace a ‘Freedom to Fail’ Culture

Let’s consider 3M, a multi-billion dollar American company, as a shining example of an enormously successful company that is known for fostering an innovative work culture by allowing employees the Freedom to Fail. As pointed out by Art Fry, the inventor of the Post-It Note at 3M, companies that wish to empower the innovative minds within the workplace need to provide freedom to employees: the freedom to fail and freedom to learn from the missteps.

The lesson that freedom can open the door to innovativeness can also be applied to the design of job roles. 

As research shows, flexible job roles can engender more participation in innovation. For example, If you are in the position to hire, instead of creating a bulleted and rigid job description, consider providing room for the next person you hire to mold their responsibilities as they grow into the role. When given the space to think outside-of-the-box of a job description, people will notice opportunities for innovation that they might not have recognized otherwise. The idea is to support everyone in your organization on the quest to identify areas of innovation and provide the space for exploration. 

2) Promote Cross-Functional Communication

When it comes to innovation, cross-functional collaboration in the workplace leads to a greater exchange of thoughts and expertise that can spark the creation of novel ideas. As Gary Hamel said, “too many companies define themselves by what they do rather than by what they know”. Bringing cross-functional teams together to solve company problems is one excellent way to tap the innovative potential of your organization. 

Multi-disciplinary collaboration and coordination are necessary for a new business idea to succeed in concept development and become an innovation. Companies with siloed business departments face an extra challenge in implementing new business concepts since the responsibility to produce innovation is split across different units. If these units experience poor communication, the odds that a new product or service is quickly (or successfully) brought to market are marginal. Both cross-functional and open communication are critical to fostering a culture of innovation in the workplace.

Next, we’ll dive deeper into the importance of differing perspectives when it comes to innovating. 

3) Spark Creativity through Diversity

Creativity includes more than innovation, but innovation inherently includes creativity. At BlueCallom, creativity is treated as the ability to compose ideas by searching the mind for correlations between various lived experiences. Being creative allows us to develop novel concepts. In order to foster an innovative workplace, individual creativity should be celebrated as an organizational resource. It is no secret that when people of different backgrounds and skill-sets are brought together, they can collectively generate great new ideas.

But, what is actually happening through this exchange that enables the creation of potentially breakthrough ideas? Creative abrasion, which is described as a process where different, sometimes clashing, perspectives are integrated (Source: HBR). In a nutshell, this means that in order to cultivate a working environment that leads to innovation, it’s absolutely critical to avoid an innovation monoculture of experts.

At BlueCallom, the Innovation Dream Team is a stage in the Innovation Journey which supports your team to assemble a diverse group of people to support your innovation vision. BlueCallom’s neuro innovation management software will help guide you through this team assembly process with a focus on diversity. 

Regardless of how innovation is handled in your organization, whether it’s a separate unit or a decentralized program, ensuring that people with diverse backgrounds and starkly different approaches are included in the innovation generation process is a productive step towards building a culture of innovation. Unleashing creativity through the diversity of thought is key.

4) Implement an Innovation Management Process

How do you get from a great idea to a tangible innovation?  The answer lies in designing a process that supports innovation within your organization, in other words: innovation management. It’s proven that having a structure and a set of common guidelines in place supports innovation. 

While most existing innovation process models are catered to producing incremental innovations, meaning modest improvements to existing products or services,  BlueCallom has developed a twelve-step innovation methodology with the goal of generating breakthrough innovation. The core of the BlueCallom innovation methodology lies in the ideation process and a technique called Neuro Ideation. Neuro ideation is a brain-stimulating ideation process that unlocks ideas by harnessing the collective creativity from individual experiences. To learn more about neuro ideation, you can check out this webinar or this blog post

Are you interested in more actionable insight into managing innovation? We welcome you to explore our Deep Innovation Design online course

Thank you for reading! Is there any strategy that has worked well for your company that was not mentioned here? If so, please add your comment.

The end of brainstorming – it never led to groundbreaking innovation.

This post was inspired by a direct question for me on Quora. Over a year ago, I was asked a similar question.

Question: “How do successful companies manage the influx of ideas and choose top-notch ideas for inventing new products?

The answer “forced” us to build the first Neuro Innovation Management Software, BlueCallom! We realized it will be the end of brainstorming.

The end of brainstorming - opening up to an all new perspective

Hubble-Telescope Credit: Nasa

A loaded question. Almost like “how do we deal with the size of the universe and select where we want to do research?” We had amazing telescopes – but thinking outside the planet earth and building Hubble was a major breakthrough in many ways.

Answer: The influx of ideas and its selection.

Who says we have to make a selection? Think Hubble – look from the outside. We have to realize that all disruptive businesses we come across were built from pieces of ideas. If we select only a few – it will probably never survive just because we limit ourselves. More detailed questions needed to be answered:

Do we really know how to create a disruptive idea?

Once I realized that I couldn’t answer the following question: “How do you determine if there is an innovation at the end of the process?” we ended up building a Hubble for Innovation. We needed to leave the comfortable sessions, talking about thinking outside the box, thinking big, bold, open blah blah blah… and find our Hubble – Neuroscience.

The pictures we saw were more than spectacular!

We took the ideation process even further and deeper and stimulated an avalanche of idea pieces. In one project, we worked with 25 executives of a large airline, producing 25 x 30+ idea pieces = 750 idea pieces in one process (2 weeks of Neuro Ideation). Since we wanted to assess all ideas and use as many as we could, we ended up needing the computer and a few algorithms to help sort and rank it. Another project consisted of 600 managers from a large pharmaceutical company. We estimated that we aggregated roughly 18,000 idea pieces, of which we also want to take as many as we could. We had to admit, neither our idea collection mechanism nor our algorithm would be good enough for that task; so we decided to build a “machine” (software) to run the show.

Building “OUR” Innovation Hubble

There is no way I can describe all our insights from Neuroscience. However, our core discovery was: “Every idea ever created by a human being, was composed of past experiences.” Meaning we can’t “create any genuinely new idea.” In other words, hoping for ideas to compete in the innovation race is like dancing around a fireplace and hoping for rain. But that is what innovation labs do today.
The day we began to question all that, was the day we realized that innovation could be a logical, manageable and highly success-oriented process.

We’re almost there – currently beta testing. First, “self experiences” almost killed us, putting our own long-term vision on its head. It was even beyond our own expectations.

Neuro Innovation Management and the end of Brainstorming

1) No more limitations – The end of Brainstorming

Don’t limit your golden nuggets (ideas) because we all have been conditioned to a process called “Brainstorming.” While brainstorming was a great start, it never created groundbreaking innovation, and today we know why. Get your team from Brainstorming, yellow Post-Its, and whiteboards to a deep dive into Neuro Ideation. The depth of your ideas will be as different as the depth of the view from Hubble. Instead of ending a brainstorming session with a few “best ideas” leverage them all. Instead of making brainstorming the core of your ideation process, give your brain time to take a deep dive into past experiences, and come up with far more relevant concepts. Neuro Ideation is a two to three-week process and requires a needs and dreams analysis with your market to be prepared. The results will be stunning no matter how creative you may think you are.

2) Tools for things we can’t handle

Remember that we all built tools to overcome our physical limitations. So we need to build amazing tools to extend the limits of our idea process. It brings a truckload of valuable idea pieces. And when we think in that direction, it opens up a whole universe of innovation relevant aspects. We call it Deep Innovation Design.

3) Never forget the innovation purpose

You need to ask yourself some of the old questions: “What problem do you want to solve? Who do you want to innovate for? What value will you provide? 100% of the answers to those questions come from our customers. With Neuro Innovation Management, we can stimulate groundbreaking Innovation on Demand. Our “Innovation Hubble” already showed us pictures that we couldn’t imagine seeing before. We eventually realized that we have to start every innovation project with an “Innovation Opportunity Discovery” project.

P.S.
We feel like Pythagoras when he explained that earth is no disk – when we say “Innovation management is no serendipity,” declaring the end of brainstorming and the beginning of a logical, manageable innovation process.

I hope it gives you some inspiration.

Innovation is an extremely counterintuitive business.

For most people outside the innovation space, Innovation means radically new or significantly improved products. Interestingly enough, product innovation is the least successful model. There are various ways to innovate. Highly successful and radically disruptive innovations today come from business model innovation. For instance, in my old company, Computer 2000, we changed the business model for tech distribution from the ground up. With our tiny startup in the 1980s, we took on competitors of multi-hundred million dollars in revenue. It looked like the chance to survive is exactly 0.00%. Today it is a $37 billion business leading the tech distribution in the world. And still, most competitors did not notice the difference and why we could become a global market leader. It was a business model disruption that went unnoticed. Another example is Airbnb. The company caters to travelers’ needs to stay in a more individual apartment or house instead of a small room in a hotel. Hotels, however, perceive the competition as a price war since there are less expensive apartments too. The hotel industry managers, who never understood the competition, fought back with legal acts, and did not compete on the service. As a result, they never brought their services in alignment with customer needs. Zappos, an online shoe dealer, changed both. Their business model and committed to organizational innovation. Soon thereafter, they also started an experience innovation project and became a great example of multi-facet innovations.

Big Five Innovation Types

 

Obviously, the topic can split even further. Still, we realized that these five innovation types need different approaches, different methods, have different financial or operational impacts, and call for a different innovation team composition.

P a r t – 1

In this first of five posts, I will share experiences, concepts, and product innovation definitions.

Product Innovation

Focused on the product side. This is the classic way to innovate and the most obvious to be recognized by the market. However, it is also the easiest to copy and to outperform quickly. Product innovation offers room for different degrees of innovation like a profound improvement of a product that changes the way users work or introduces a radically different product that may change a whole industry segment. Competing with product innovation is oftentimes done by starting a price war, and very quickly, the innovator may be forced to reduce pricing, increase marketing effort, or take a much longer time to grow market share. Alternative products as such innovation can quickly substitute product innovation is the most obvious, the most visible, and the fastest to understand. In the past 20 years, business model innovation, experience innovation, or organizational innovation continuously won over product innovation. Probably one of the best examples is the automobile industry. Companies fight on the product level: electric motor or combustion engine. One company, Tesla, does not lead on the product level but uses one of the hardest nuts to crack, multi-facet innovation.  On the surface, it is, of course, the electric car. But when looking under the hood, not literally speaking, it is the business model innovation, the organizational innovation, and the experience innovation that makes the company the market leader despite having a much smaller production volume. While the global awareness for Tesla was achieved with its super fast and wide-ranging electric car plus its early engagement in autonomous driving, the whole wide-angle view of the Tesla management, including building the charging stations and the gigantic innovation on the battery side, came from an organizational innovation thinking, the way the cars can be configured and ordered and how easy it is to understand what a user gets is part of the experience innovation, the whole pricing pressure, initial losses and ways the cars get sold is part of the business model innovation. No other car manufacture in the world was so innovative on all fronts and took the automobile no longer as a single product – but a part of holistic user experience. Another example is Microsoft. It’s no news that Microsoft never invented a single product. The operating systems, DOS, and Windows have been acquired, and so were all the office products, the SQL server, and other tools acquired. So one could say Microsft is the least innovative tech company in the world. All they did is integrated all the products and sold them under their own brand. Many are still not fully integrated – 30 years later. Instead of putting all the resources, time, and money into building the solution, they needed to fulfill their vision they acquired them. Microsoft’s real innovation is to create a user experience through integration and seamless exchange of data that nobody else saw as important. Nobody else did as well as they did. The experience innovation did not need a product but an architecture. The other innovation was a business model innovation. From the very early days, they committed not to build their own computers but pushed computer manufacturers to use their software. The non compete commitment from Microsoft was compelling enough to get an exclusive commitment from the computer vendors. And knowing that all the office apps will need their operating system was good enough to give the OS away for peanuts. Business model innovation and experience innovation were strong. Understanding how the company operates and what they offer was so confusing for most competitors that nobody cracked their dominance – till today. As we will discuss other innovation types in the following posts, you will see the difference of those innovation types relative to the ‘good old’ product innovation. You will see that product innovation is not going away – it’s still an important part of an innovative business. Product innovation is becoming a commodity – but is no longer a differentiator.

#ProductInnovation

In the next parts, 2, 3, 4, and 5, we will go into the other innovation types’ details. Here just a quick snapshot to put the above in context.

Experience Innovation

The most effective way to innovate, only recognized by users, and communicated through advocacy. Experiences include general customer experience all the way to entire entertainment solutions such as theme parks or highly interactive restaurant types, and lately, space travel. Experience innovation is very hard to copy and very hard to compete with. Usually, it takes highly creative minds to piggyback on a concept and develop a different model that makes the experience unique.

#ExperienceInnovation


Business Model Innovation

The most successful way to innovate with a big impact on the industry. Typically, business model innovation goes hand in hand with experience innovation. It is the hardest innovation type for any competition to copy, even to compete with. Changing a business model is hard enough for a business to develop – it takes years for the competition to emulate and follow. Business model innovation has been the most successful type of innovation in the past 20 years. The biggest number of business model innovations emerged from the US.

#BusinessModelInnovation


Organizational Innovation

Innovation within the organization, mainly for process acceleration, customer experience, resulting in increased profitability. It is tough to copy (if not done by consultants), making it very hard to understand from the outside and even the inside. Organizational innovation often requires a deep injection of new processes, different employees, and often a different management team. In large organizations, hundreds or even thousands of people may be affected by organizational innovation when they cannot unlearn and learn new ways of conducting their work. One question quickly rises to the top: “Is innovation killing jobs or the wrong team killing innovation?”

#OrganizationalInnovation


Structure Innovation

Supra-Enterprises, companies bigger than 25,000 employees, seem to have the hardest time to create truly ground-breaking innovation. In particular, in the western world, Top Executives, Board, Investor representatives, Unions, Industry associations, local government representatives, and maybe more have to agree on creating a new leadership structure to bring innovation forward. Inventing disruptive solutions often require major changes in the current teams as skills and experiences may shift significantly. Disruption in the automotive, energy, food industry requires knowledge and deep experiences in those industries not only on the enterprise side but also in external structures. A startup as a small company can go under the radar – a public company cannot.

#StructureInnovation


 

A billion-dollar innovation
is not done with a few
brainstorming meetings.

We started with a big problem (see history below) and have the vision to develop technology for innovation teams to innovate like never before imaginable. Now we are ready to go.

Ready to Callomize

On Wed, Oct 15, we introduced our “Neuro Ideation” methodology. On Tue Nov 24, we will open up for Beta Teams to start beta testing the system and build groundbreaking innovations. The beginning of an amazing journey.

 

A billion-dollar innovation is not done with a few brainstorming meetings.

There is no free lunch. And reading 30 days to get rich isn’t helping you either. There is no known highly disruptive startup that got to their initial concept, product, and market validation in a heartbeat. And there has been no disruptive innovation from larger enterprises in the past 20 years.

Innovation Management Software

We changed how to interact with your computer by helping you move from linear thinking to lateral thinking. You may already know from design thinking that iteration is a big part of the process. On our multi-user digital canvas, you see the facts, research, market data, or other given or provided information on the left-hand side –  right across your logical brain hemisphere. You see your creative responses and constructs, answers, or activities to your right, across your creative brain hemisphere. And the middle field, i.e., Field-9, is the “negotiated summary” or initial outcome. Very much like the brain halves exchange and negotiate information via the Center Callom (Corpus Callosum). Going further down, you find the execution of relevant information. When you start, you will possibly find it odd that everything is so small and so much information. Over time, however, you will not want to go back to lists of data where you need to go back and forth in that linear order. It takes a bit of mind training to get familiar with it, but your thought process will not only become much faster but less distracted.

Innovation is a highly unique process.

Hundreds of thousands of innovative concepts get turned down every year by CFOs in corporations or venture investors by startups. My blog post, “The Initial Value of an Idea is Zero,” is one of my most read blog posts.  And that addresses one of the biggest counterintuitive aspects of innovation. Why spending so much time on ideation if the value is initially zero. And since many executives know that the value is created in the execution, the ideation process became a second class citizen. If we look at the full scope of the Innovation Life Cycle below, you will realize that many steps look like ordinary business activities like producing a prototype or go to market and scaling. But there is a reason we added them to the methodology toolbox of the “Deep Innovation Design” model.

Each of the steps that are supposed to make an innovation successful is profoundly different relative to bring an improved product to market. Market validation is not done when a prototype is created but before any penny is spent building one. Why? Because you can build a prototype of an existing but improved product, and it becomes quickly obvious if it will work or not. Not in the innovation space. With your next-generation product, you go obviously to your biggest customer s first to get this massive initial volume you need to support the massive production line you have. There is no way to do that successfully with groundbreaking innovation. To gain fast access to global markets, you will probably need very different and far more creative ways to enter the markets than the growth strategy from existing improved products. On the other hand, scaling seems to be not a big deal in your existing production environment. The scaling of groundbreaking innovation is fundamentally different because your initial customer base of early adopters is by order of magnitude smaller.

The Deep Innovation Design process superseded any current innovation processes by its width of the end to end innovation lifecycle and the depth of the neuro ideation method.

Innovation Financing

Yet another big challenge is to get funding for an innovative project. You may get paid to innovate, but the innovation will not materialize. Or, as a startup, you build an amazing opportunity, but investors turn you down. Why is that? There is a multitude of reasons, but most have to do with “communication.” It’s an interesting pattern that most highly innovative businesses did not get any funding when they started. Google was not given the tiniest chance, yet the became the global leader. Salesforce had to initially bootstrap for the longest time to get of the ground with funding. Two of my companies the same. The simple answer is:  any groundbreaking innovation is challenging to understand and hard to believe in becoming successful. Only now, when we understand how we compose ideas, going far deeper into our minds to answer, we know how difficult it was to cross the chasm of the obvious ideas and get to the impossible ideas and back to something we can start realizing. A CFO or investor needs to be taken to the very same journey to understand the concept AND its importance. Without a diverse innovation team, this is virtually impossible.

Ready to rock

We are exceptionally excited to open up the door for beta users to join us, help us shape the future of innovation, maybe even the future of learning, thinking, communicating, and a future of human collaboration. Please consider joining our Neuro Ideation intro on Wed, Oct 15, and if you like to beta test BlueCallum com to our beta test webinar on Tue Nov 24.  Or simply get in touch with us at any time. we would love to explore what YOUR ideal way to innovate would be.

P.S.   History

Interestingly, we are a groundbreaking innovation in itself. 2016 we began to help startups methodically create disruptive business models. In 2018 we went deeper into how groundbreaking innovative ideas were created with little to no findings. The entire Internet could not provide an answer – we hit the wall, BOOM. In 2019 we ran by accident into some eye-opening presentations and talks from neuroscientists about how our neural system processes experiences and associates those experiences with each other on the fly. That it helped them to solve all kinds of brain illnesses was less interesting for us. But we found a way to apply those discoveries in the research to find out how innovation is created. After our amazing discovery, how our minds compose and process ideas, we feverishly created methods to apply the newly gained knowledge to innovate like never before imaginable. During initial work with a few big clients, we hit the wall again – BOOM. The early experiments showed that the participants created so many valuable ideas that it was impossible to capture the time [when ideas had been composed], and date volume killed our canvas-based model. With 25 people, it was easy to create 250 valuable idea snippets. If we included customers, we would run into the thousands. The only option to solve the problem was to build a computer model that could capture any number of idea snippets entered at any given point in time, including outside any brainstorming meeting, and include selected customers from around the world to contribute. Mid-February, when the earth seemed to stand still because of covid-19, we started our software development project. The first lines of code were written end of February. The early Beta (more an Alpha Version) was ready 6 months later, and a month later, we had the first two pioneer customers on the system. We knew that, when dealing with the brain, we are opening a can of worms. Today we know it isn’t just a can; it’s a full-size metal oil barrel. We realize we are at the beginning of an all-new era of cognitive technology.

 

 

When understanding how our mind composes and processes ideas, we must ask how we can leverage those cognitive abilities, control them, influence them, and improve our thinking skills? The Neuro Ideation method is the first step in that direction.

0) Experiences are Innovation Silver
There is no more relevant experience owner in the market than our customers. The value of the “Open Innovation Theory” is now scientifically proven. The Innovation Opportunity Discovery method uses that knowledge and helps identify the biggest innovation opportunities and provides the inputs to turn the inputs into groundbreaking innovation. For that very reason, represent customers a strategic companion in any market-facing innovation project. We should add a diverse set of customers to our ideation process. If we compare it with climbing a big mountain, we are now at basecamp, together with our customers.

1) Brainstorming
The oldest and still not a bad starting point for innovation is Brainstorming. However, a typical brainstorming session takes about an hour and brings the most obvious ideas forward. Our energy-conscious brain does not go very deep into analogous situations, let alone into distant experiences. It also won’t weave more complex experience networks to produce rather exceptional results. At the end of most brainstorming sessions, the team is already exhausted but finds very cool ideas, and most of the team are excited. The team’s excitement stems from the fact that most of them could comprehend the best idea right away. Those obvious ideas get usually selected as the best and processed further. This means that most everybody else will understand them, and some could easily replicate those ideas. They may become nice improvements, but never true innovations. But we reached our camp 1 on our quest to go to the top of the “idea mountain.”

2) Post Brainstorming ideas
Almost everybody had already experienced that in the following days after brainstorming, participants of such meetings come with new ideas – often better ideas – in the following days.  However, most teammates consider those “latecomer” as distracting and fear that the ideation process will never get done and turns them down if more come. This is rather unfortunate because the brain continues searching for more great ideas. But since we did not know how our mind works, we turned it down.  Assuming that we are looking for truly groundbreaking innovation, we will let the brain continue to work for 48 hours and allow brainstorm participants to add those ideas into the innovation system whenever those ideas seem to be very relevant. And this is just the beginning. At this point, we reached camp 2 on our trip to the mountain top.

3) Analogous experience connections
When we have enough time to think about problems, our brain has another powerful tool: analogous experience search. It does that by taking the results from past thinking and tries to find similar but unrelated experiences. That means that our brainstorming was a good first step to stimulate the brain to find various alternative situations that would normally not come to mind. For most of the past 2 million years, we needed our brain to survive, circumvent danger, and save ourselves from far more powerful animals and other risks. Decisions needed to be made fast. And an obvious idea was just right. But there was also time to muse. In that time, the brain was able to search deeper and wider, had more time, and could come up with completely “useless” questions like what this space up in the air could be. Time to think was and still is one of the most valuable times for our minds. Today we use it to purposely reach further in our neural networks for solutions that are definitely not “obvious ideas.” The compositions of our obvious ideas with analogous ideas are producing already far better results. We can say we reached camp 3.

4) Post analogous idea development
And like with the first brainstorming result, the ideas, augmented by analogous ideas, are growing over the next 48 hours. Interestingly enough, we learned that our mind is not looking for more analogous ideas but different connections in our “past experience” repertoire from our own experience.  Our mind searches for verification during that process if the analogous ideas are really in synch with our original problem. Simultaneously, it looks for variations of the idea in the context of the analogous situation. In BlueCallum, we were using extreme sports development and how it evolved to find a parallel to our current development, understanding how our mind can become significantly more powerful when we understand how it works. At this point, we are reaching camp 4 on our ideation journey.

5) CallomBurst
We are calling the next phase “CallomBurst.” We are taking our ideas to a level where the solution is most likely impossible to realize. We are asking ourselves what would the perfect solution look like in 100 years. What would this solution look like if resources, financing, and time would be irrelevant? The word “Impossible” is banned from the discussion. We are getting to ideas that would be literally unconditionally ideal. We want to reach the limit of possible perfection. Only if we are at the limit, we know nothing can compete with our vision. And the purpose of the CallomBurst is to create the level of impossibility. It can become our vision, with the understanding that we may achieve it over the next 5, 10, or even 50 years. That vision will differentiate us and our idea and doable concept from the rest of the industry. Even if our biggest competitor uses the same technique, they cannot come to the same vision but will have a different vision. And that means a different company with a different goal. After the CallomBurst, we reached our 5th camp, and the last before the summit.

6) BlueCallum Summit Day
A few days after the CallomBurst, the team climbs the last piece of the journey and recaps all their experiences. The final and impossible idea continues to entertain our minds, and it creates a picture of where everything we have worked on could end up. BlueCallum Summit Day is where the visions are shared with everybody. On that day, it may fuse to an overall vision for the team and the company. That vision will be clearly unique and become the disruptive and innovative concept the company may want to realize. Obviously, the product would not exist on day one. But it gives the whole solution a long term direction that will be a reality one day. But everything that will be available in the first version of the new product will be an innovative and disruptive solution from day one.