The power and promise within innovation: shifting up our gears

Are the rules around innovation changing? Are we spotting the changes in the drivers and current deterrents of innovation? What are the present day perceptions around the innovation challenges?

GE released their first-of-its-kind “Global Innovation Barometer” at the end of January 2011. It is focusing on identifying the changing landscape for innovation in the 21st century. It suggests innovation will be a catalyst for improving multiple areas of citizen’s lives in the next ten years.

In many ways it paints a very optimist future for innovation. Innovation, the survey predicts, will create jobs, improve lives, address more human needs, find better ways to collaborate and learn, and simply create good in people’s lives with the promise of prosperity.

I wonder a little differently: are we not placing too bigger a burden on innovations shoulders?”

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Social innovation comes of age in Europe

Social innovation is about new ideas that work to address pressing unmet society needs”

The shifts taking place in Europe

The competitiveness and challenges that Europe faces in the next ten years are significant. Innovation has been placed at the heart of Europe’s 2020 strategy. It is this clear recognition that innovation is the best means of tackling issues that will affect our future living standards is not new in itself, but it is this real political recognition of its place and importance, now that is.

Innovation is also our best means of successfully tackling major societal challenges, such as climate change, energy and resource scarcity, health and aging and becoming more urgent each day to address in more systematic ways.

European funding of innovation in recent years has perhaps placed far too much emphasis on research and development to deliver the growth and jobs it requires.

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Accelerating the evolution of Innovation Management PLEASE!

Sometimes you become concerned, this is one of those moments. I’m getting concerned that we need to take some urgent action.

The Corporate Innovation Manager- is stuck in the middle.

Recently I was going through a report, a very helpful one, by link supplied by on the on the Corporate Innovation Function- key findings and detailed results, commissioned by HEC Paris.

I was also reading  some views expressed by  Reinhard Büscher, Head of Innovation Policy at the European Commission, on the role of the innovation manager (IM).

Both paint a rather dismal picture of the position of the Innovation Manager within organizations- very fuzzy not yet well defined.

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The beginning of a new era for innovation, truly global.

Braden Kelley wrote an article entitled “Is the era of Innovation Over?” ( which I would like to build upon.

Braden is the author of “Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire” from John Wiley & Sons and is also the editor of Blogging Innovation ( ).

Braden picked up on an article lamenting the seemingly poor state of Canada’s innovation efforts ( ) with the view that “Innovation is literally hitting a wall”. Braden has also commented about the recent US approach to resolving their innovation approach and believes it is limited in its understanding and appreciation of innovation.

Here in Europe we are certainly going through the same crisis of confidence with innovation, it is not producing the wealth and growth expected and needed to fuel our economies. The EU commissioner for innovation, Máire Geoghegan- Quinn, the EU’s first innovation commissioner, has started to created a lot of positive energy around some exciting new initiatives but are they enough? My answer is simply no.

For a very thoughtful article on the EU and innovation ( ) published in by Ann Mettler, Executive Director of think tank The Lisbon Council and here she gives her take on policy and innovation.

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Welcome to the brave new world of innovation ecosystems

Will ecosystems replace simple ‘old’ innovation collaborations as we know them today? Open innovation has suddenly lost its pole position. Board rooms around the world will be thinking through the events that unfolded yesterday and I’m not talking about Eygpt.

Just get into the story that has been unfolding at Nokia in the recent weeks, it has been breathtaking but it signals a massive change in where innovation will be going. Let me summarize some of this story and add some of my own thoughts on what this means.

Firstly the famous burning platform memo within Nokia.

In early February Stephen Elop, the CEO of Nokia issued a ‘burning platform’ memo internally

  • We are standing on a “burning platform,” and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.
  • The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same
  • And, we have more than one explosion – we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.

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Orchestrating the new dynamics of innovation fitness

In my work investigating different aspects of innovation activity one thought tends to dominate my thinking: “How do we achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of innovation within our capabilities to be more successful?”

I’ve already written in previous blogs about the need of “constantly checking for the pulse of innovation” ( and suggesting the way to “open up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success” (

I’d like to take this one step further in this blog and outline my thinking on innovation fitness landscapes and why they are essential  to understand .

Each organization needs to know its Innovation Fitness Landscape- why

There is a pressing need for a firm is to consistently build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments. It is the mastering of this ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will enable certain organizations to emerge as the winners of the innovation race.

This view requires a more ‘dynamic’ set of capabilities. Often the question becomes one of “which are the critical ones to focus upon to improve the chance of greater success?

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Writing off legacy within your innovation systems

You hear constantly the need for greater speed, increased agility, and effective delivery from ideas to implementations for innovation.  Yet we still keep these organizational needs locked into those old structures, systems and processes that have been layered one on top of the other as we learnt about innovation over the years. We  often simply kept  adapting these (often badly) into the existing way we were managing innovation. Isn’t it time we addressed this growing issue of adapting, stopped the compromising and started redesigning our innovation systems from afresh with present day leading innovation practice thinking?

Managing innovation as a system is no different from managing IT for example. You get to a given point where the costs of running innovations through your existing systems continue to rise. You begin to diminish your innovation performance. Speed to market seems never to improve the way you want it too, and more importantly delivery against the identified market opportunity seemingly gets more and more compromised. The risks of cutting corners seemingly grows every day, and you under deliver on the opportunity first seen.  No wonder eventually leaders begin to question and lose confidence in their innovation abilities. The results increasingly become suboptimal.

Is there an alternative?

I believe we need to re-engineer innovation differently and more radically. Without doubt we have all learnt enormously from the evolution of innovation and its management but there is a time to rethink the whole rationale behind innovation, its systems, structure and process. Increasingly organizations are appreciating their unique but surprisingly precious few distinctive innovation capabilities that (can) set them apart. Understanding these does start giving the strategic perspective of what is core and to be protected and developed, that meet the strategic priorities, against what needs to be increasingly outsourced or relegated in management attention and support.

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