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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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”

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