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Hot vs Cold Innovation: Thoughts on the TechEd in Berlin

I was part of the InnovationWeekend – which I thoroughly enjoyed – and kept trying to figure out why it was such an interesting and worthwhile experience. As I walked the show floor, I also checked out the various demo pods and the Innovation Lab .  I started to think about the different ways in which innovation was presented at the event. I also reflected about the different ways in which collaboration with SAP takes place.

I’m calling the two types of innovation –  “Hot Innovation” vs “Cold Innovation” without making a judgment call on their relative values. There is a time and a situation in which each has its definitive place.  For me, the distinction is not based on the technology  / innovation itself but rather how it is presented.   This attitude in turn reflects more than the marketing of innovation but also how external involvement in innovation is perceived. How much do you show customers or partners and when and how do you involve them in innovation?


“Hot” Innovation

“Cold” Innovation

Example at TechEd Innovation Weekend (IW) Innovation Lab
Interaction Type Collaboration Demonstration / Discussion
Symbol at TechEd IW teams that were made up a partners, customers, SAP employees and new technology experts from SAP – this produced a feeling that focused on “we” SAP “Scientists” walking around in white lab coats in the Innovation Lab. For me, this symbolized the distinction between “us” / SAP and “them” / attendees.
Representative Tweet / message “Good news for #sapteched #innowe10 participants -@innovcenter will also be there in LV with latest protos for teams to use” – tweet from

Jason Cao


Led by self-proclaimed alpha geek Dr. Jeff Word, the Innovation Lab offers visitors to the show floor an opportunity to discuss products and projects in their infancy. Jeff considers the Innovation Lab to be a reflection of the maturity of SAP’s co-innovation model and is convinced that customers see value in getting early access to the products, and participating in the maturing process.
Interaction with Innovation The most exciting thing about the IW was that customers and SAP representatives worked with the technology together – discovering strengths and weaknesses. There was no hiding if difficulties emerged. If an innovation had problems, then it was discovered and possible solutions discussed.   Users are given overviews of exciting innovations that usually originate with SAP Labs.
Interaction Duration 30 hrs less than 1 hr
Feeling Passionate Controlled

Interaction demonstrates the mature co-innovation model that SAP has successfully implemented to involve customers in product development. Further examples of such involvement are Design Partner Council (DPC),  Customer Engagement Initiative (CEI)

Legal Basis No contracts necessary Although attendees who attend Innovation Labs sessions don’t have to sign any contracts to get information, participation in other types of cold innovation require legal agreements to deal with the IP issues.
Ideal Event TechEd Sapphire

Note: For those who think that the IW wasn’t used to present “important” innovation from SAP,  participants at the event were given the opportunity to use River – which plays a central part of SAP’s cloud strategy.

Innovation and the Demo Jam

The Demo Jam is one event that showcases innovation in the SAP ecosystem.  I’ve seen quite a few and I have the feeling that they have lost some of their passion. They’ve become too professional.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of watching a tightrope walker – you hope they don’t fall but there is always the chance that they might.  This feeling of inherent danger is missing in the DemoJams. Yeah, the innovations presented on stage are cool but the roughness – that “developed in garage by two hackers” feeling – is missing.  Thus, it is often difficult to identify with those on stage.  Although the Demojams are no longer hot innovation, they aren’t quite cold innovation – let’s call them warm innovation.


I think you need both types of innovation. I was involved in the InnovationWeekend. I’m participating in multiple CEI sessions and am also member of a DPC, so I appreciate innovation at both levels.  However, I have to admit that the collaboration in the IW was more visceral.

You can view hot and cold innovation as phases on a single innovative continuum – sort of like falling in love and then moving into a serious relationship / getting married.  Each phase has different advantages and disadvantages.  You can’t have one without the other.

In some ways, it is like any relationship amongst individuals. If you open yourself (or open your heart) to the outside world, you expose yourself to emotional damage from those whose only desire is to hurt. However, this openness can also lead to relationships that are stronger than steel and which can withstand great adversity. As a software vendor or any company, isn’t that the trust / relationship that you wish you had with your constituents – be they customers, employees, business partners or members of your ecosystem

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  • I like the term and have the same opinion on demojam having become a professional's game, and lost a lot of the amatuer fun. I think this has to be expected when SAP,Sybase etc themselves compete, and are totally picture perfect - and rest of the field think that is what they have to emulate.

    Splitting demojam prizes into 2 versions or not allowing SAP employees to be considered for final proze if there is only one version are some possible solutions in my mind.

    • I don't think splitting DemoJam prizes into two categories would work - I also don't think the presence of SAP employees is the issue.

      The inclusion of the InnovationWeekend winners in this year's DemoJam is a step in the right direction. Currently, they aren't part of the regular competition. How could they be - you can't compare the results of 30 hrs with the results of months of work.  I don't know exactly how to combine the two events but I think adding more of the "Hot" innovations from the InnovationWeekend would probably liven up the Demo Jam.


      • Demojam could be pushed in the right direction again if you add a rule: Just don't allow participants to reveal which company they work for. I feel a lot of the Demojam input is pushed by marketing teams, and not by the geeks who should prevail during the Demojam.

        Like you say Richard:

        the roughness - that "developed in garage by two hackers" feeling - is missing.

        There are very large budgets reserved for the Demojam participants within their companies. In the early days (I wasn't there, but watched a lot of content) it was really the own initiative of individuals that gave Demojam that extra spicy feeling.

        • That would be a radical idea about removing the company affiliation from contestants. It would definitely be curious to see which companies would remain in the event.  You would probably have more crazy ideas from individual hackers - it would be a different event with a different character.


          • This is an interesting thread. At TechEd LV this year there were 4 SAP Teams, 1 partner/customer team and 1 customer team. The customer team won with their excellent HTML5 demo.

            Breaking this down a little more, at least 3 of the SAP teams on stage were presenting their own 'hacks', and not work coming from their daily tasks.
            I have been lucky enough to be in Demo Jam the last 2 years with ideas that I created in my own time, but when on stage I am "SAP Labs" as that is my employer.

            I like the idea of an anonymous affiliation, but would also welcome more customer participation. I know the events team would like this too.

            For next year I am looking to partner with a customr for Demo Jam and I suspect there are other SAP employees looking to do the same. Collaboration and Innovation together for Demo Jam is extending the reach of the excellent Innovation Weekend from the 30 hours into a longer relationship, and in my eyes that can only be a good thing.

          • As I read your comment regarding "looking for a customer to partner with for Demo Jam", I realized that the idea that might be very useful. What we need is some sort of a online partner "dating" service for innovation / technologies for the DemoJam. That way SAP employees with good ideas could connect up with "willing" partners and customers. You'd have to find a way to deal with potential spoilers who just mine the service for good ideas but I think this might be doable.


        • I don't think that will really help. The past few years most of demo winners were SAP.

          This year, according to Craig, there were almost 100 entrants.

          5 out of 6 DemoJam contestants were SAP.

  • You gave me names, for what have been in my mind for a while already! It is like in corporate world, where we have as well cold (top-down) innovation and hot (bottom-up). First one is supported by budgets, PhDs, marketing, processes; later is what we are doing on a side, after hours and discussing with so much involvement during lunch breaks and over the coffee. Cheers!!
    • I don't know whether I would identify 'cold' with 'top-down' and 'hot' with 'bottom-up' although I do see some parallels.  A company needs both types of innovation and should support both types with resources in order to assure that both are successful. Of greater import, however, is the transition between the two types. How do you decide which hot innovations should become cold innovations and how do you assure that the passions that are so tightly connected with those lunch-break-based ideas aren't lost when the Marketing Dept and PhDs become involved.



  • Your powers of analysis are really excellent and I love the matrix approach. It's simple and graphic.
    I will provide another "row",  if you will permit, based on feedback I heard after the event: Peer Exchange
    "unfettered" VS. "mediated"
    One of the participants contrasted the peer exchange that went on in one of the groups and between customers with the kinds of conversations that usually occur in a SAP mediated Councils (ie SAP->Customer and Customer->SAP but rarely Customer->Customer directly
    As you say: no judgement, both have merit. 🙂
    • Feel free to adopt / adapt the table.

      I've also been following the blogs and tweets coming from Las Vegas and I think that all involved agree on the success of the event.  I can only hope that more people attend next year. If the number attendees do increase, however, the new challenge will be to limit the number of attendees and / or make more groups - without losing the intimate quality that was so successful this year.