Going behind the outside-in of imagination at GE.

In the past few months I have become interested in GE and how it is managing innovation. Often you read a number of negative reports on GE but is this just the big guy being picked upon by more nimble observers that have a limited insight into what is going on behind the walls of GE?

What is under the innovation bonnet at GE?

There does seems an awful lot going on in GE around innovation on what we can observe from outside looking in. Of course you would expect this in an organization the size of GE employing 300,000 people across 100 countries and generating $150 billion dollars in revenue.

In Jeffrey Immelts (Chair and CEO) own words “the toughest years of my life were 2008 to 2009”.To drop 31 billion dollars in revenue in two years is tough to manage through, and to see net earnings drop by nearly $6 billion dollars in this period to where it
is today, of $11.6 billion dollars, must have been  very hard.

GE seems though on a path of recovery after these very tough years. Is innovation leading that recovery? It is hard to really tell from the outside, trying to read behind the hype as you can’t see so much under that innovation bonnet as you would ideally like. It needs greater transparency and ease of clarity, well certainly for me.

We see much activity outside-in but not enough of what is going on ‘inside’

Clearly the ‘flagship’ of innovation, publicity wise, has been the imagination themes for GE, with two stated growth pillars. These are open innovation activities for the outside –in. Let me summarize these:

The Ecomagination was GE’s open challenge commitment to imagine and build
innovative solutions that solve today’s environmental challenges and benefit
customers and society at large. There has been two ‘biggies’ in challenges that
have opened up as a call to action from the outside of GE with the promise of  the winner achieving a commercial relationship with GE and the “bait’ of having funds of $200 million as a capital pledge within this area to award. The two challenges so far have been “Powering the Grid” and presently “Powering your Home”.

The other open challenge is healthymagination. This is again an external idea challenge focusing on three critical criteria: lowering costs, touching more people and improving
quality with the aim of providing  100 new innovations by 2015. Healthymagination is an investment by GE of $6 billion over six years to develop innovations that measurably improve quality, access and cost by up to 15% with a focus on lower-cost technology, more IT, expanding access, and consumer-driven health. There seems to be more winners in
this one.

These tell me that the innovation ideas are flowing into the organization and
clearly swirling around being explored, evaluated and worked upon. I worry over
the level of disappointment by the many that don’t get to the reward stage. How
sustainable is this approach?  Certainly it is fuelling much to encourage more of these challenges but with a real need to increasingly establishing pathways for multiple winners either in commercial relationships with GE or directed to others to commercialise if GE decide not to. There must be some brilliant ideas that can’t simply fit within the ‘appetite’ of GE’s quest for innovations on a large scale, likely to be at least offering the potential of $1 billion annual sales.

Researching to understand innovation in the world

We also can see GE has been growing in its understanding of innovation in the outside world with GE releasing 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

This report (http://bit.ly/dPyT0j) follows a previous one that came out in July 2010 that was an European survey, again sponsored by GE, (http://slidesha.re/ecqMfl) on the current barriers and the current state of innovation policies within the EU.

These tell me they are actively curious about the world of innovation.

The questions for me though are far more about the inside workings of GE for innovation?

The global research centers for GE (www.geglobalresearch.com) provide some solid indicators of what research is being conducted. Research has been doubled in recent years and GE spends $4.4 billion on this area. By the way this sum is getting close to the magical figure of 3% of revenue that the EU wants each country in the EU to commit to innovation research to maintain and progress.

GE employees 3,000 technologists and they are promoting their Engineers and Scientists as the modern day “Edisons” and feature a different person each day to show who they are, and what they are working upon. Nice touch I feel, to get them to form as an innovation research community with a real face.

Corralling from the top the best and brightest

I also gather at the top they have a Corporate approach to corralling the top 100 big ideas as protected and guide these through the GE innovation pipeline, providing they keep hurdling the different ‘stage gates’ required to make progress through the system and the ones that don’t make it through the next gate get moved out the coral and others come in to inject fresh innovation ‘big growth blood stock’.

All these tell me that on innovation they indicate the huge strides GE are making for an organization to open up and make innovation as part of ‘coursing’ through the GE blood. Or does it? GE have opened up; they are certainly ‘open’ for external ideas (providing they are big enough to survive within GE) but what really is under the GE innovation bonnet within its culture to innovate? What makes the innovation activity tick, too promote it, to sustain it, to instil it in every persons thinking, working for GE?

So has transformation arrived or where are they on their innovation journey actually?

This is my difficulty to fully understand. Apart from the usual “innovation is a constant journey” stuff, I find the GE story is not so open for all to see on its journey point from what I can see. I’d love that to change to understand and value. We read governance reports, we get enthralled in big projects, we see the end result in new innovations but has the inside really changed or just added the outside-in?

There is a real pressing need for GE I can only assume it is grappling with. The fact the sums involved in often these ‘winner takes all’ imagination competitions must only give a limited ‘lift’ to GE more in the judging, evaluating and assessing of external ideas. This intensity of activities has the danger that it is only a short term effect on building an internal culture for innovation unless the benefits can be ‘touched and felt’ throughout the organization, not just simply read about, blogged with pride and interest.

The rules of innovation are changing at GE or are they?

Beth Comstock (SVP & CMO) has mentioned in recent interviews “the rules of innovation are changing”. She was talking far more admittedly about what GE have been learning through their market research and in these big engagements with the outside world. I am sure she is bringing that learning into the organization.

She also offers two other themes that resonated with me:“Doing well by doing good” and “Makes good in people’s lives”. Again these were more in the external context of where GE is heading. I would suggest this is equally where the inside should be going as well, making their lives feel good by given the chance to make their personal contribution to building a sustaining culture of  innovation across GE.

For me, innovation should always have a social result, as it is first and foremost, a people engagement activity.It is not just a bottom line result, and I would feel running a challenge internally that uses those two themes might give such a personal identification and sense of engagement and significantly advance the adoption of innovation as part of the every day job.

How about an internal imagination challenge on similar scale to the others?

GE needs to translate this external engagement within perhaps a matching inside engagement. Something as highly visible and as big in its challenge: to transform the culture of GE to a lasting innovating one.

Perhaps an inner-imagination set of challenges, to embed a greater innovation culture more within GE.  In other words they spend a similar appropriate sum of money internally but not for one ‘big’ idea but for the thousands of small ideas resident in the employee’s minds that effect their everyday work and then allow them the time to pull down the resources to translate them, wherever they reside, not just in the research lab, but across all 300,000 people working for GE. Let innovation cascade throughout the organization.

Most would compare equally with the existing  healthymagination goals of reduce costs, increase access (to innovation), improve engagement and quality, and most importantly opening up minds, sparking conversations and exploring all the possibilities that innovation touches within an organization.

I quote from a recent article “the term innovation now acts as the proxy for strategic renewal and market disruption- what we really need is to uncloak it and recognise the breadth of change enterprises face” ( www.innovationmanagement.se for the source article http://bit.ly/hyTNVh).

They always say the biggest challenge lies within, not just a reliance on simply bringing in the outside-in perspective, it can deflect from the potential that is within and aslo  that can go more inside-out. Innovation is certainly changing  and what it means, and how we  are going to manage it going forward. GE needs a new inner culture to innovate far more, to manage greater growth ambitions across a complex array of business sectors tackling sustantial societal problems , and to achieve this I’d like to see more openness under their innovation bonnet and have a fully visible commitment to changing the culture so it is made up of many innovators across the whole organization, not just selected parts of it. Now that is a big imagination challenge

Open innovation stands at the crossroads- where to next?

Although open innovation has been around for some years, it is in the past three to four years the notion of open innovation has accelerated and moved very much and becoming embedded into the structure of many organizations.

Presently most organizations are dealing with the roadblocks surrounding open innovation either internally within their own structures or with the potential partners that they want to work with, for a more diverse innovation portfolio.

Arguably open innovation will merge into simply a way of doing innovation, then into something more specific. For me that is more into a collaboration and co-creation innovative approach I touch upon further into this article

Today we are broadly at a maturing stage of OI. In summary you could say:

  1. The potential benefits of OI are recognised and receiving management attention
  2. The OI approaches taken vary according the business context, resources and maturity of the innovation process internally within organisations. This can range from dedicated teams to ad hoc responding to a lead OI initiative where that company can contribute specifically
  3. The IT systems are catching up but still need in many cases a step-change to fully integrate the OI process
  4. Although OI is spoken of increasingly it still has not achieved the alignment to strategy, anchored often still in the R&D lab OI is still not fully connecting into marketing’s view of the market or the customer needs.
  5. There are still numerous problems on IP, sharing know-how although this has made significant inroads of reducing as a roadblock by greater top management attention to OI’s potential.
  6. There is some levels of specific OI culture developing in thr larger organizations. People are learning the differences in external partnership, relationship building and creating levels of trust, governance and openness. This is still evolutionary though.
  7. The decisions being faced around OI opportunities is still a tough area to tackle. Besides the struggle always with building a clear innovation business case there are many more complex investments that have impact, let alone considering the other parties views that might see ‘numbers and opportunities’ in very different ways.
  8. Metrics have been a constant problem. The lack of an effective measurement is not from a lack of trying, it is the difficulty of the innovation beast. Ideas and concepts are most often going where no one has been before, and frontiers are notoriously unpredictable.
  9. The emotions of people are equally being more thoughtfully managed although downsizing does slip out a little too much to keep that concern out in the open. Increasing capacity, learning and knowledge seems a more attractive way to take OI forward. The value-to-me message needs a sharper focus.
  10. Clear, descriptive and mutually motivating RFP’s are getting more nicely structured around not to tight, not to lose, easy to read, well structured on who does what and why and financial potentials that share according to the contribution more than in the past.

There are others but I think you get the picture, we are on our way, OI is maturing. We need to gather and formulate the leading practices to strengthen this stage of OI.

So we are well on our way- so what’s next?

This is the place that absorbs me. Consolidation or Exploration. My prediction is open innovation will slip out of use or be common place and be replaced by a more collaborative and co-creation framework on open innovation platforms.

I think we see these shifts suggested even in Professor Henry Chesbrough’s latest book “Open Services Innovation”. He is more moving out of the R&D lab and has moved right to the other end of the value chain- the customers. He not only discusses limits of a product by only approaching OI in that way, he suggests the combination of co-creation with your customers is essential. The combining of 1) co-creation with customers, 2) the absolute need to understand business models to be redesigned for OI concepts, 3) build these more on collaborative platforms and be far more open within 4) the use of a more ecosystem approach where collaborators move in and out using the platform for their own ends but recognizing they each need to interact and contribute to others in the OI space to get to their value creation point.

That does sound well beyond the existing OI many of us are still struggling to embed into our organizations. This is not so much as a possibility, it is crashing towards us through the innovation jungle.

Social networking also comes far more into OI in the future

Many organizations are really struggling on this. They are still treating ‘social’ with rubber gloves, at a experimental stage. Gloves need to come off and fast. This is uncertain territory for many. You start drawing customers into the heart of your development process so well- who owns the resulting intellectual property even with early assignment rights. The customer gets wise very quickly and it becomes potentially nasty if you have not compensated them well with all the social network tools at our disposal today.

The delegation to more of mutually reinforcing networks or partners recognizing shared value in collaboration. Today many of the community to make a really powerful ecosystem community are outsiders or limited in their participation. This will increasingly open up. This will partly depend on the technology used and how it is being applied or allowed to roam.

Other places OI will seek to go

There is growing talk of distributed co-creation but there is this need to resolve intellectual property, managing the more open risks versus return and how the community is structured.

Participatory marketing is yet another open to innovation from the outside- this again requires significant restructuring to respond and extract the value. There are many experiments on this across different industries to read about and learn from but how you structure and relate to this is the tougher part of the problem at present.

Four aspects that need to be thought through for distributed co-creation are:

  1. Attracting across people to become engaged in co-creating, and then drawing them in and holding them
  2. The art of structuring the problems in the first place and then managing this
  3. The real need for clear governance mechanisms to facilitate this.
  4. The ability to hold focus, to maintain quality, to bridge different perspectives.

There is seemingly an evolution of OI coming- are you ready?

Let me finish with this further thought- exploring the innovation value chain.

As open innovation seems set to increasingly move out of the R&D lab and across the organizations value chain where will OI work and be a contributor?

Here is my take on this, it is about treating the innovation value chain like this set out below and setting about extracting through open innovation improved solutions knowing that the inevitable is coming towards you and that you will need deeper answers in the near term:

  • Exploring the nature and drivers of innovation in the firm and sector context.
  • The nature of the firm’s partners for innovation and the nature of collaboration you need.
  • Skills involvement in innovation and skills shortages that need bridging.
  • Knowledge sourcing mechanisms and idea generation to evaluate through different perspectives.
  • Innovation management and organisation- how it needs to further change and adapt.
  • Teams and their role in the innovation process are altering in emphasis. Structuring these to reflect the new more open skills required in external realtionships.
  • Knowledge exploitation- absorptive capacity is getting critical
  • Marketing and customisation – knowing and working through all this means .
  • Process innovation- the speed, the steps, the decisions are all changing. What can help?
  • Barriers to innovation- the classic group has many ‘young’ usurpers coming up. You will need ways to recognise and deal with these?

These are where you need a depth of understanding across innovation. External collaborators should include experts in innovation management, people that focus 100% on the subject. It is their depth of understanding of the interrelated parts of innovation and how, where and why you can extract in more open innovative ways that might have some value to consider.

Moving across the value chain offers some fascinating opportunities that can yield as much to organizations as the present OI activities and that means more disruption so do this with someone who can offer you real value and expertise in innovation’s new impact in this changing world.

Societal Innovation-challenging our future thinking

There needs to be this major shift from market-led to more socially-lead organizations occurring. We see pockets of this in a number of business organizations offering clearer governance and sustainability outlines as part of their annual reporting. We need to push them a lot harder. We need to move away from business- only innovation into society based.

The shifts taking place

Society has shifted, is shifting; the consumer is becoming the supplier of content, of meaning, of their taste preferences, their emotions and the goods and services they will buy. Mass consumption, the model honed in the 20th century doesn’t work anymore. Customers are actually saying “less choice, more say” and seeking deeper self-determination. This personalising of preference can seem like more complexity for organizations but there are many ways to manage this but it requires real change in organizations, oriented to society more, serving them more.

The marketing thinking is in need of adapting also.

Consumers are searching for better well-being: through health and wellness, connectedness, personal growth and identity and control. Everything is coming more into a ‘context’ economy that places value on customization, adaptability and transformation with the overriding value statement of “what we will value as against what we consume”.

Social innovation becomes increasingly important within communities

Facing a fairly long period of economic restructuring in most developed economies, the consistent globalisation of local jobs, rapid technology change, polarization of opinions we seemingly are all facing a world of great uncertainty and increasing complexity.

Our governments are searching for solutions. The premium seems to be centred on new knowledge acquisition to add jobs and promote new solutions to tackle unfamiliar or persistent problems within society. We seemingly can’t afford or tolerate in capital markets anything that seems inefficient, applying unsustainable practices or not innovating well.

Innovation- based on social problems- offers a real meaningful solution for us all. If we can harness the best ideas for emergent problems, explore these in timely fashion we can move beyond our existing crisis. We all searching for personal meaning and society does offer this really.

The four main areas that Social Innovation can address and they are all near you!!

  1. Resolving the problems around our growing physical needs and limited resources (age, health, education)
  2. The increasing need for a different type of skill and capability set that innovation seems to require and often we are not taught- in school, business or society
  3. A major shift in care and service- serving the needs of others, communities and those actually close to us
  4. Psychic needs- the recognition, increased understanding and care that cuts across our societies in so many different, often in bewildering ways.

Innovation is social, social is the new innovation

Social and interpersonal aspects (social media, networks, relationships) are aspects of innovation that are increasingly being recognizes and understood to being critical to the innovation process. The realisation innovation needs people, everything else are enablers. People hold the key role in the innovation process as the creators and carriers of knowledge. They develop it, they translate it, and they consume it.

The increased art of collaboration and co-creation

Collaboration and co-creation is emerging that has the potential to provide those value creation points society requires. We need to learn how to cooperate. I was reading a book recently by Gaurave Bhalla called “Collaboration and Co-creation: New platforms for Marketing and Innovation” and he offers a simple but powerful framework- Listen- Engage- Respond.

Society that can be mobilized links the economic, social and environmental spheres; it can have a cumulative dynamic effect if we can harness it.

Pushing society to solve its growing problems needs to happen

We simply do have the capacity to solve our problems but it needs the combination of private, public, voluntary sectors, philanthropists, foundations and society to come together in different ways than we have seen in the past. That is why we are entering the era of societal innovation and we need to get business even more tuned in than ever.  We need to develop a greater social and cultural lens to translate our concerns, fears and insecurities into beliefs, values and aspirations that offer a vibrant future. Innovation is now needed in all walks of life- this is our societal challenge.

Shortage and Plenty- the growing shift towards Social Innovation

On 16 and 17 March 2011, Social Innovation Europe will be launched in Brussels. Funded by the European Commission, Social Innovation Europe will create a dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative new Europe with the intent for Europe to embrace the broader concepts within innovation and set an example globally for this social movement.

The aim is by 2014, Social Innovation Europe will have become the meeting place – virtual and real – for social innovators, entrepreneurs, non-profit organisations, policy makers and anyone else who is inspired by social innovation in Europe. This can provide the opportunity for social innovation – for so long on the margins – to take its place alongside business innovation at the centre of the economic stage.

Social Innovation Europe

The intent will cover the following:

  • connect projects and people who can share experiences and learn from each other;
  • develop an easily accessible resource bank – so you can find about other projects, organisations and ways of working;
  • develop a resource bank of up to date policies at local and national levels and provide information on funding opportunities;
  • facilitate new relationships between civil society, governments, public sector institutions and relevant private sector bodies
  • develop concrete recommendations in financing and in up scaling/mainstreaming of social innovation in Europe

Social Innovation will become a large topic both in Europe & the USA

I’d like to provide here a useful set of references to read into social innovation by introducing the Young Foundation (http://www.youngfoundation.org/). The Young Foundation brings together insights, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs and has been focusing specifically on the UK. Its CEO, Geoff Mulgan, will be leading and moderating this launch event in Brussels on 16th & 17th March 2011.

Three essential reads that will really advance your understanding.

  1. Danger & Opportunity– a paper by Robyn Murray putting forward the argument for the rise of the social economy and the fact we are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of economy that will have profound implications for us all. The report link is here. http://bit.ly/eqUaUA
  2. The Open Book of Social Innovation– written by Robyn Murray, Julie Caulier-Grice and Geoff Mulgan, released in March 2010 and within this It describes the methods and tools for innovation being used across the world and across the different sectors – the public and private sectors, civil society and the household – and in the overlapping fields of the social economy, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. This is a terrific collaborative effort and an excellent read. The report link is here: http://bit.ly/cMa1F6.
  3. This is European Social Innovation– written again in a collaborative effort it was instigated and coordinated by the Social Innovation eXchange (SIX) at the Young Foundation, Euclid Network, and the Social Innovation Park, Bilbao. This report identifies and highlights some of the most promising innovative initiatives across Europe. The ten selected projects were identified because of their potential for impact, and relevance to the issues facing Europe. The report link is here: http://bit.ly/fGCc8w

SIX- Social Innovation eXchange (www.socialinnovationexchange.org/)

This is the global meeting place for the social innovation community. SIX is a global community of over 1000 individuals and organisations – including small NGOs and global firms, public agencies and academics – committed to promoting social innovation and growing the capacity of the field.   Our aim is to improve the methods with which our societies find better solutions to challenges such as ageing, climate change, inequality and healthcare.

SIX was designed to fill a gap. There are some existing networks of social innovators – both groups and individuals – in particular sectors (e.g. health, environment, cities), particular fields (e.g. social entrepreneurship, policy, design), and particular countries and regions. SIX does not aim to compete with, or supplant, any of these initiatives, but rather intends to link them together to promote learning and collaboration across sectors, fields and countries.

The essentials of social innovation will be in resolving the challenges we all face.

About Social Innovation

Social innovation is the process of designing, developing and growing new ideas that work to meet pressing unmet needs. The term is a relatively new one, but there is a long history of social innovators and examples of social innovation – from kindergartens to hospices, and from the cooperative movement to microfinance.

The past thirty years in particular has seen a remarkable growth of new social ventures in both the developed and developing worlds. Sometimes referred to as the Third sector, they in fact operate across many sectors, from parts of the public sector, to the collaborative ‘household economy’ and the private market. (from the SIX website)

Definitions of social innovation

SIX define social innovation as the development and implementation of new ideas (products, services and models) to meet social needs. This broad definition encompasses the innovations associated with fields as diverse as fair trade, distance learning, hospices, urban farming, waste reduction and restorative justice. Social innovation can come from individuals, groups and associations, the non-profit sector, the market and the state. The basic distinction between social and other innovations is that production is driven by social values as a primary imperative rather than private financial appropriation.

I do urge you to spend some time to investigate and become increasingly involved.

We need to address some of the most intractable problems facing our society. There are thousands of promising initiatives but one of the big problems being faced is few of these have grown in scale. Also  the support needed to turn these good ideas into big impactful ones that do begin to resolve some of those innovation challenges are the real fronter to master. We need to focus on social resolution. Lets trust the kick off meeting for Social Innovation Europe goes well and produces some real momentum.

Transform European activities around innovation ecosystems

The challenge today is to transform European activities around innovation. It is the same for the United States as the growth and job mantra will simply come from innovation. In the EU case, Innovation forms a central plank of the 2020 Europe goals.

Regretfully the next Titanic is waiting to happen.

In recent months there has been considerable activity to formulate the new policies to support innovation through EU funding. The EU has been inviting dialogue and offering a mountain of guidelines and suggestion to help us all.  Much of the focus is on streamlining what is already in place.  I’ve called this on some different discussion blogs a little like “reorganizing the innovation deck chairs on the titanic as it heads towards an iceberg”.

There is enormous activity and pressure to perform as the past results of many of the EU initiatives have not delivered on the goals set, and there is this real urgent need to reflect upon the lessons learned from the failures of the Lisbon strategy. It does seem the present ‘effect’ is put on more steam, lighten the load where we can and let’s try and navigate through these challenges (or icebergs), no time to lose. Everyone is on high alert in Brussels and around the EU all busy doing their job to contribute to present dialogues on making innovation a success. We need to take really radical action in my view.

Perhaps we should be shouting “all stop”

Maybe we should be shouting “all stop.” Can we keep going on layering more onto a system of innovation that has not worked in many cases or provide even further policies that clearly do not fit the order of magnitude of change taking place around innovation?

We are simply shuffling the innovation deckchairs and this is not going to be enough to confront the new global innovation changes taking place. The ones that are slow to respond, regretfully the EU is a shining example of that, that lacks that real agility to read, react and respond (more the later ones, better at the reading ones in the EU’s case) is simply going to consistently lag and not lead in the new global innovation race. Can we afford that?

The EU needs to be bolder in its innovation agenda for a number of reasons:

  • It does not have low costs, abundant labour resource and pricing advantage against many of its competitors. It has to leverage different competencies for advantage.
  • The world is more interconnected and competitive than ever before and harnessing 27 odd members onto the same view is ‘herculean’ irrespective of the issue.
  • Other nations are rapidly replicating any competitive advantage quicker than before,
  • The infinite global creative workforce is forcing everyone to go where the resource (human, knowledge or natural) lies to gain economic advantage. Innovation does not respect borders.
  • The multiple converging forces, perhaps a new infliction point, is, I feel, actually happening. Society is gaining empowerment and possessing the tools to shape and influence. The consumer or individual voice is growing and organizing in new ways that will radically change, in collaboration and influence.

When you are progressively stripped of those traditional past bastions of advantage, innovation needs to become THE essential core competence to survive and thrive, to respond and build around. It seems we all at least agree on that, the issue is how to go about it is where we diverge.

Stepping back is stepping up

The EU must pull back. It simply can’t continue to design, manage, fund, lead, guide and judge as an ‘all-in-one’ for innovation. It needs to stand well back. It needs to revert to what Governments or Institutions like the EU should be:  the providers of the essential backbone, the infrastructure and clear the path to allow all others to find their way. It should set out the big challenges, the societal challenges, which in all fairness the EU is doing, and set about laying in this backbone or foundation for others to work from.

Innovation Business and Social Platform Ecosystems

My view as a serious proposal is to build multiple Innovation Business and Social Platform Ecosystems as part of this different thinking needed.

The EU needs to tap into the combination of strengths within the different regions for them to coalesce around the notion of Innovation Business Platform Ecosystems. It is partly developing the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that are increasingly available, combining these with the social media platforms so a greater number of parties are working on the solutions and challenges required to resolve these BIG societal challenges.

This will be based on these eco-platform BIG challenges in an open collaboration forum where a number of different stakeholders (or actors) who have potentially different business & social model needs can come together. The scale and scope of ecosystem platforms can become the fuel of energy, knowledge, specialisation, collaborative know how for innovation to happen, that provides benefits and value to each person or entity that participates.

The Government or EU  provides the necessary support and investment into this ‘innovation backbone’ to enable distributed organisational models based so interaction and collaboration can go on and looks to ‘clear the way’ for the successful delivery of personalized high-margin products/services that leverage local identity and economic structure.

Measuring Innovation Ecosystems

The  aim fits the EU objectives, that is to foster an inclusive and participative society, grow wealth within the community, create jobs which supports broader economic inclusion.  These ecosystems empower the creativity and the participation of all potential participants of EU regions (public and private organizations, small and micro enterprises, communities, universities, institutions, individuals and the critical final consumer) in open socio-economic processes.

Specifically the EU or the separate Governments can measure progress

I’d argue we should forget the old measuring system of the 20th century, hung over from manufacturing of measuring inputs, process, outputs, it gets too complicated. The only one I’d always keep is outcomes, as the only real measure of (commercial) progress, something the EU admits it is not good at doing- generating successful commercial outcomes.

I’d radically measure innovation differently, through:

Innovation linkages– the productivity of relationships, alliance collaborations achieved, interactions taking place, the forming of new knowledge networks, clusters and sharing of complementary assets. It evaluates the different intersections to spot new possibilities

Knowledge diffusion– the content, its value, its adoption rates and absorptive capacity within and outside the ecosystem for accessing knowledge, anchoring it (within the EU) and diffusing it on a broader scale. It can also judge knowledge response (learning).

Intangible assets– it can promote intellectual capital and facilitate long term support for innovation solutions that look promising. It can re-equip people, the most intangible element to manage better within these ecosystems.

Improve the conditions for innovation to grow– by monitoring the dynamics within these ecosystem platforms (demand, impact on society, adoption/ diffusion, skill obsolescence etc) where the commission plays the role of lead policy influencer.

Do innovation ecosystems answer all the problems?

No of course not, but it fundamentally challenges the way we are currently doing things and dismantles the way innovation is being managed today, in silo’s and national boundaries. With intervention constantly taking place at central levels is to influence, yet it regretfully constrains much about innovation today. It is not intended but clearly happening. We need to unblock these constraints and take innovation to the next level.

Innovation thrives by allowing the energy to flow in as close a natural state as it can, less rules, fewer boundaries, higher uncertainty but contained within a given universe. It cannot be tied to increasing complexity, rules and guidelines, even ‘unnatural’ innovation country borders.

The policy maker should play their new part to help to lay out the vision, the mission and provide the enabling resources to best achieve improvement for society and economic wealth, and then get out of the way of the actual process as much as possible, unless it has a clear role to provide part of the core enabling factors.

The main EU/ government role is simply to ‘fuel’ the ecosystem where it can, both in the challenges that need resolution and in providing the backbone of the system to facilitate it, not as many feel today, to direct and police it.

Be bolder EU please, our innovating future depends on it.

Maybe wishful thinking but fiddling with those innovation policy deck chairs knowing what is coming towards me is far scarier. We need to be bolder in our innovation thinking not simply rearrange and streamline the existing activities.

Innovation dynamics have simply changed. Innovation Platform Ecosystems needs serious consideration to change the innovation dynamics within Europe.