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Open, Innovation, and Ecosystem… three great words, but what do they mean?  On Friday, October 15, 2010 I had the privilege of attending an SDForum event titled Open Innovation and the Ecosystem, held at HP in Palo Alto, CA.  This was an all-day event with some great speakers and opportunities to interact with some Silicon Valley leaders and innovators.  The commentary below is my synopsis of the event.

Opening Keynote: Sustainable Innovation

Judy puts forth a call to action to resolve an innovation deficit by closing the innovation gap. In order to achieve breakthrough innovations, our business leaders need to be courageous, taking threats and turning them into opportunities to inspire.

Among the list of speakers was Judy Estrin, CEO  JLabs LLC and author of Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy.  In her opening keynote, she focused on sustainable innovation and put forth a call to action to resolve an innovation deficit.  She stated that “innovation is not just a sound bite; it is having the capacity to change,” and she went on to describe the three types of innovation:

  • Breakthrough innovation-disruptive, where new markets and industries are created
  • Incremental innovation-necessary, customer driven
  • Orthogonal innovation-combining existing technologies and innovations in new ways

All of these types of innovation are needed.  While breakthrough and orthogonal innovation types are typically disruptive, incremental innovation is the most common.  The only problem with incremental innovation is that it is purely customer driven, and the customer doesn’t know what is possible.  It takes courage and leadership to achieve a breakthrough innovation.

Core Values for Achieving a Capacity for Change

In order to have and to promote the capacity to change, these values need to be present and in balance:

  • Questioning-curiosity, self assessment, non-judgmental
  • Risk-vulnerability, attitude toward failure, fail early, learn from failures
  • Openness-to imagine, new data, sharing, surprise, change
  • Patience-tenacity, patient capital
  • Trust-in oneself, in others, safety net (bankruptcy, healthcare, education)

Sustainable Innovation Ecosystem

Just like organic ecosystems, innovation ecosystems must be in balance in order to sustain life and to grow.  Innovation doesn’t just happen; it needs to be nurtured and distributed across the organization, and is therefore, bottom-up, not top-down.

Leading for Innovation

Tight metrics are required for incremental innovations, and a nurturing environment is needed for disruptive innovations.  Given that fear works against change, our leaders today must take threats and turn them into opportunities to inspire and to nurture.

Panel Discussion: Innovation in Practice

The panelists included: Christine Crandell, Accept Corporation; Riley Gibson, Napkin Labs; Guy Martin, CollabNet; Paul Pluschkell, Spigit; and Chris Yeh (moderator), PB Works.  During this panel discussion several interesting facts came out:

  • Although many large companies have Labs groups, most innovations do not come from the Labs groups.
  • Most people do not have the necessary tools to properly and effectively manage innovation.
  • Innovation offices are needed in order to bring innovations into the company. This requires proper tools, people, and a culture supportive of innovative behaviors.
  • Innovation also requires a high degree of communication, community, and courage.
  • Need incentives to be reflective of the desire behavior, not just money.

Company Keynote: Building Innovation Tools that Work

Doug Solomon, CTO of IDEO, kicked off the afternoon session by providing a fun look at how IDEO manages its workforce.  He stated that innovation is a team sport and outlined five principles for collaboration and collaboration tools:

  • Build pointers to people-it’s all about the people.
  • Reward individual participation by providing:
  • o Recognition
  • o Project staffing
  • o Career development
  • Demand intuitive interfaces-if it’s difficult to use, people won’t use it.
  • Take the road more travelled-forcing people to alter their behavior or to adopt new toolsets will not yield positive results.
  • Iterate early and often

Closing Keynote: Mobility, Agility, and Serendipity

The final speaker of the day was Dr. Henry Tirri, SVP and Head of Nokia Research Center.  NRC drives breakthrough technology exploration for Nokia.  Henry’s approach to innovation includes the following elements:

  • Be embedded in the innovation ecosystem-you cannot do it alone.
  • Place your bets-diversify. Not all innovations will pan out.
  • One size does not fit all-understand impact vs. investment in order to decide what makes sense.
  • Work with the best people together. Don’t just hire a bunch of academics, put them in a room, and expect great things to come out.
  • Understand the end customer hands-on. Put yourself alongside the customer and share in their experience.
  • Allow room for people to dream
  • Innovation is global and is applied globally
  • Must not manage innovative thinking
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  1. David Cruickshank
    Scott,

    I must have been traveling and missed this session- wish I had been there. The things covered completely track to the research I’ve been doing to demonstrate the ability for an open innovation strategy to be executed through co-innovation as SAP has made possible through our own co-innovation enablement platform. You can find a link to an article I recently wrote on the topic from my blog post on the topic-

    Open Innovation, Co-Innovation- Part II

    This is a follow up to a post I wrote more than a year ago and have now finally have several months of research which now contributes to the recent article.

    I also recently presented my research at the Strategic Management Society Conference in Rome where I was very encouraged to find so many scholars and practitoners validating the value of the Ecosystem. Several strategy scholars and researchers shared a number of viewpoints on importance of the ecosystem and Dr. David Teece from the Hass School of Business at UC Berkeley says “the ecosystem is the nursery of innovation”.  Without question, companies that successfully implement the ability to co-innovate are in posession of a truly dynamic capability but this must be supported by processes that balance both exploration and exploitation. In other words, co-innovation activities must support the ability to drive higher degrees of integration and interoperability between partners with complementary technologies and solutions (exploitation) and deliberate collaboration to develop entirely new innovations (exploration) that can be fitted to the right business model to drive commercial success.

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