Front end of innovation; need(s) some disruption?

FEIEMEA is a conference about the Front-end of innovation. The easiest way to understand the scope is to look at the innovation funnel en focus on the first stage of the model. Participants are mainly based in Europe (in particular the north west), with around 150 delegates from multinational companies, R&D companies, Innovation management companies, etcetera. I was the lucky innovation manager from Rabobank who got the opportunity this year to attend.
I will pass on my notes below, but keep in mind; this is just a selection of the sessions (there were two parallel tracks and a site visit). I have not included the names of the people I met during the sessions. Some of them have relationships with Rabobank, but the most interesting ones were the other companies’ delegates. It was a true pleasure meeting them.

Day 1 11-3-2015

It was a bit of a disappointing first day. Met a lot of nice and interesting people, but the workshop by Peter Koen was not what I had expected and the presentations of Disney and Google were ok at best. No, let me rephrase; the Disney presentation was ok, the Google presentation was dramatically bad.

Workshop by Peter Koen

Still, there were a couple of good moments. Peter Koen started off well in his workshop. He presented a couple of useful models and overviews that we can use at Rabobank. It is important to note that all his work is evidence based. In other words, there is sound science backing up the models and insights.
Peter’s definition of innovation is ‘revenue from an idea’. I discussed the revenue bit from an internal perspective and Peter seems to be fine with extending this to ‘delivering a business case’ as well.
Front end of innovation is defined by ‘activities that come before the formal and well structured new product development portion of the innovation funnel
Peter introduced the ‘New Concept Development Model’

NCD model from Peter Koen

Based on his research, Peter concludes that focusing your energy on opportunities (in stead of ideas or concepts) has the main impact and discriminates successful companies from non-successful ones.
Trend watching is a very important element. You need to understand ’the sandbox you want to play in’. Search for the opportunity space we are currently not addressing.
Some other important insights from his research:
  • Senior management commitment (vision, strategy, resources and culture) to the front end is the single most important variable
  • Effective networked teams and their leaders are more important than any tools and techniques
  • Incremental and breakthrough projects require fundamentally different innovation management practices.
One more helpful overview. This describes the engine of innovation. In my view, this is what the innovation board needs to have as a toolset for making decisions on innovation.
Engine for innovation in NCD

Engine of innovation

Some quotes on breakthrough innovation:
  • Leaders will make significant investments in breakthrough, but will force the solution into the sustaining business model
  • Sustaining businesses execute a business model, breakthrough innovations need to search for one
  • The true product of the breakthrough innovation is the business model, not the solution
  • Stop worshipping the church of new finance
  • Embrace financial uncertainty and slow diffusion rates
  • Organizations require ambidextrous leaders. They understand the difference between managing sustaining and breakthrough and act accordingly
  • Lean startup is the new way of working. It uses a business model as a converging tool for brainstorming for breakthrough innovation business hypothesis
Peter actually uses an adapted format of the business model canvas to support the FEI stage.
FEI canvas Innosight LLC and Peter Koen
 A great thing about Peter is that he shares all his materials from workshops. So here is his library of documents. Some great stuff
Tweets of FEIEMEA

Plenairy presentations by Disney and Google

Some quotes from the Disney presentation
‘Dream it and then do it’
‘Money is not a purpose, it is a result’
‘Innovation should be a little scary’
‘Behaviors eat process for breakfast’
Center speaker sketchInteresting approach in the Google presentation: project X is about moonshot campaigns. They are targeted at 10X better. In all honesty, the rest of the presentation was a machine-gun firing of ‘check-out-how-great-we-are-at-Google’ type of details that had little or no connection to the front end of innovation. My mind drifted off in designing a new center speaker based on 3D printing techniques.

Notes Day 2

Day 2 was a mixture of presentations and workshops. Peter Koen kicked off with Lean Startup, but having been in his somewhat disappointing workshop the day before I really did not feel it was worth my time. Bas Verhart was next. A serial entrepreneur and founder of THNK academy he took us in evaluating our ideas based on the attributes of great breakthrough innovations. The morning session was concluded with a workshop on visual thinking. Being focused on visualization in lieu of capturing ideas I have only limited notes in words. I did get a great list of interesting apps and saw some struggling with ipad and apple tv as part of the infrastructure. The afternoon saw two interesting workshops; one by Gavin Suss (Keter, MIT) and one by Bombardier (Mike Hatrick & Rebecca Walsh) on the role of the Innovation Manager.

Bas Verhart (THNK) – Rethinking business as usual: the art of thinking differently

Bas took us through a list of attributes he thinks are important to understand in relationship to the concept you have in mind to develop. An interesting quote in his introduction…’it’s the responsibility of managers to protect the dreamers’.
Unfortunately, I was a bit late arriving and did not have a chance to make a photo of the total list. Here are most of his attributes.
  • Vision of the future. Try to state it wrt your idea; a possible beter future that I want to make happen through the following enterprise concept… This calls for an explorative mindset, passion & purpose, envisioning a beter future.
  • Why?
  • What?
  • Smart execution?
  • Reframed perspective – are we talking about a new category?
  • Is the timing right? An important element that calls for both business sense ánd collective memory. Bas discusses a lack of collective memory – don’t fully agree on that. It’s not a lack of collective memory, it’s a lack of collective learning that seems to hamper most organizations. Sustaining an existing system is easy. We have a great memory for that.
  • iconic name
  • what takes it to the next level?
  • Visionary in visualisation.
  • What is the edge?
  • Elegant
  • Does it give a true advantage?
  • Unexpected
  • Embedded intelligence
  • Tail wind
I tried applying his list on Banking for food. I concluded that this might not be the proper level of analysis. Banking for food is an opportunity space, not an idea or concept. It will spark them, hopefully. So what is the concept? Do we have one of more? We are not there yet (or I don’t  know them). Maybe we need concepts.
An interesting area to use the list on is the Big data for Performance Improvement project we are working on.

Education innovation leadership (Keter presentation by Gavin Suss)

Suss is a hyperactive teacher, entertainer and scholar. Fun workshop with lots of laughs. He had us on our toes. Some notes on how they get people at Keter more innovation minded and their processes more effective for the frontend…
  • The boss HAS to be on board
  • Try out stuff, simulate, brainstorm
  • Hands on experience with excellent mentors (get practical)
  • Use actual teachers, not a professional.
  • Enrichment courses (arts) to create a new state of mind
  • Round table sessions
  • professional and international tours
  • Teamwork (heterogenous)
  • Reframe problems
  • children are not creative – they just don’t know boundaries
  • Rule 1: your first anwer is usually not the best one
  • Pro-active approach
Suss further discusss some techniques to improve thinking.
  • no assumptions technique
  • reduction
  • a different friend
  • radicalization

Explore the role of innovation manager: An experiential workshop

Mike and Rebecca had a nice, hands-on session in store for us. Based around their actual work at Bombardier, they took us in groups through their cases and asked us to actually act out the role. This simulation exercise was great at getting us talking about the field and practices. One of the elements that we find lacking in many FEI situations is a good understanding of the problem definition (but this was by no means Mike and Rebecca’s fault).

Day 3

Day 3 basically consisted of two main presentations with room for further discussion. The first presentation was from world renowned conductor and producer Christian Gansch. Mr. Gansch held a swooping presentation on the team dynamics and management practices of world class orchestras. Interesting and entertaining, but.. nothing on the frontend of innovation. My question in the Q&A session on disruption in music business was shrugged off with a tirade on mp3 and bad sound quality, but no insights on how he, a producer of classical music, actually deals with this disruption in the industry. Of more interest was the presentation of prof emeritus J.Ph. Deschamps (former IMD), of which more below.
Prof. J. Ph. Deschamps on Innovation Governance
Innovation Leader can be compared to a conductor. It calls for individual leadership + organizational leadership
Governance is beyond management: Long term strategic choices, sense of direction, all types of innovation, ceo & top management, insight & foresight, a dream with deadlines, reacting to disruptive trends/technologies
‘prescience errors’ = missing a novelty threat (check Ravi Arora, making innovation happen)
check doblin organisation model. For across the board information. Beyond technology and product.
CEO – propose innovation steering guideliness
  1. why do we innovate?
  2. Where do we innovate?
  3. How much? (money, risk, type)
  4. How?
  5. With whom?
  6. Who?
Make this explicit in an innovation charter
A lot of companies have adopted a chief innovation officer. According to Deschamps, there seems to be only one really sensible model for Innovation Governance; the Innovation Board. Include different functions of the organization, e.g. marketing and especially HR (!).
Interesting model in which some organizations include two innovation boards; 1 for disruptive/breakthrough and 1 for sustaining innovations.
critical successfactor = personal engagement and commitment of the CEO. Tolerance for failure and focus on learning. Shepherd.
  • Top team should be strongly behind it
  • you need a few dedicated people for the front end
  • handover between front and backend should be seamless (creativity and discipline)
Three innovation killers
  • arrogance
  • complacency
  • greed
I was allowed to quote J.Ph. on this one ‘Innovation management in banks is very hard. Being an innovation manager is a very though job, anyway. But the toughest of all jobs is for HR innovation managers.’
Got it.

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