Smart, Connected Products Will Radically Alter the Value Proposition.

Smart connected prize 1Marketing has worked for years in framing the marketing mix on the classic 4P theory of product, price, promotion and place for finding its value proposition.

Then this was extended for the need to bring in the service aspect, by becoming the 7P,  adding physical evidence, people and process onto the original 4p.

Then this was updated in the nineties to become people, process, programs and performance.

Great as this maybe in its  ‘progressive’ evolution these are totally inadequate to ‘serve’ today’s world of smart, connected products. Product design has become hyper, connected and needed to be well-designed. It is more to do with what is embedded or how it is connected and less on the product as the value generating proposition.

Getting a deeper understanding of the smart, connected world

I’ve been reading a terrific article by Michael Porter and James Heppelmann in the Harvard Business Review entitled “How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition,” this is in the HBR November 2014 edition. The article is around 12,000 words long but I would argue is well-worth the read, it opens up much to consider as connected technology becomes this new competitive force.

The authors write about the third IT-driven wave. As technology is becoming or has become an integral part of the product itself. Embedded sensors, processors, software and connectivity within our product, coupled into the cloud to produce (tons of) data, that needs storing, analysing to drive dramatic changes in value, product functionality and performance. The “internet of things” changes everything but as it is pointed out it is more “the things” that are changing the competitive landscape.

Product marketing will be governed by IT and how it grapples with these changes, the Technology team become central to the fortunes or decline of our organizations in this connected world.

The connected products expand the potential for new functionality, greater reliability, higher product utilization and capabilities that will cut across and transcend traditional product boundaries.

We are in real need to ask the question “What business am I in, or simply want to stay in?”

The strategic choices is how are these significant changes going to change the competitive landscape for each of us, how will we be able to capture and create new value. The industry boundaries are suddenly expanding, becoming highly porous to new competitors, threatening existing and well-established organizations in multiple ways.

More-complex product design coupled with embedded technology and multiple layers of new IT infrastructure challenge the conventional product dramatically.

Jeff Imment, Chair and CEO of GE, recently stated “every industrial company will become a software company”, I’d go further it is simply ‘every company.’

Value propositions are radically altering as well as Business Models

Standalone discrete products that have worked for years suddenly seem outdated. We are receiving more product systems and will see increasing more systems within systems, where multiple products all connect to help in the home, the car, the hospital, connecting us within the city we live or as we travel, on our aeroplanes, in remote places.

The system that connects the products and offers new value propositions will become the core advantage place, not the product itself. Some of our organizations will end up being deliberately “productless” so as to provide these systems or be the master provider of the system of systems. Think Google here for example to begin to visualize this.

New business models will proliferate to incorporate this smart, connected world as strategic position will be all about doing things very differently, across the organization and how you connect and engage outside, both in new partners and with your final customer.

Replacing the old 4P with a new set of escalating connected considerations that will drive your product offerings.

Porter and Heppelmann suggest it is the capabilities of smart, connected products that will need to be worked through by building from one into the next. Although each capability is valuable in its own right it allows the next one to build from it and the more of these four built into the final offer, the more the customer value and eventual competitive position will be determined by the finite choices within each.

Monitoring – connected products need a growing comprehensive monitoring of a products condition, operation and external environment. This provides how a product is being used, this helps design, market segmentation possibilities and improved after-sales service to achieve better utilization, or changing product capacity. An example is medical devices where monitoring is potentially key in its value creation or premium

Control – connected products will be increasingly controlled by remote commands or algorithms that can respond to specific changes or improved customization of the product and allow for higher personalization. An example is connecting the home, its lighting, heater, security etc.

Optimization – the flow of all the ‘connected data’ has the potential of improving output, utilization and efficiency, where more remote repair can take place, preventative maintenance. By operating with real –time’ knowledge you can make smart connected repairs or when you send someone to repair something malfunctioning that technician can have already knowledge of the possible diagnosis of the problems, recommended repair processes ready to work through and have the potential parts all on hand.

Autonomy – Robots, like a vacuum cleaner can use their built-in sensors and software to scan and clean floors, it can over time learn about its environment, self-diagnose and adapt to user-preferences. I must admit (smiling) human interference might just get in ‘it’s’ way to do the optimum job. The connected products can co-ordinate with other products and systems so you get your brew of coffee waiting for you, after the robot has done the hard work! It gets hard watching all the activity or monitoring performance.

So we will need to work through a more complex product offering beyond just simply the ‘old four P’ but the ability to deliver through these new capabilities is a massive undertaking.

The IT department will become more of the central innovating connecting hub. How it responds will be pivotal.

The IT department will massively change as this will become more the innovation hub of connectivity, evaluation and deployment. It will move from being at the ‘back end’ into one of leading the ‘front end’ of change. Innovation will radically alter its present role as it moves more towards technology based innovation or system innovation. Both will make IT the essential ‘go to’ place. IT does has a pivotal role to play in innovation activities.

The changes within IT will require a massive up-ramping of skills not presently found in most of our organizations, many of those got either downsized or handed over to others, outsourced, to perform. This will need to be rethought in the changes ahead.

These ‘drawing in’ skills will include software development, systems engineers, data analytics, and security expertise and new partners to compliment and assist. A new wave of providers will need to be competing with existing IT partners for the investments that will have to be made.

These will need to be on new product hardware, embedded tailored software, connectivity, in-house storage, remote servers and cloud, security tools, new gateways for external protocols and finally integrating into the enterprise business systems in really different ways

Just imagine the needs to go and build or connect into a new “technology stack” which requires the product in hardware and embedded software, a connectivity network, a growing product cloud of applications, analytic engines, application platforms and a data storage system.

Then you have to consider the higher level of protection for data security, application and protection that both the product and the user needs simply rises exponentially and all of those needs. This is a real inhibitor of fast adoption for many.

Working through all the threats and opportunities calls for significant strategic thinking and radical overhauls of product and connected design

The hurdles that will limit or accelerate this new competitive threat are tough challenges that each organization has got to work through. Firstly it has got to get its head around all of the changes taking place in connected technology and digitization.

There is a lot at stake, possibly the biggest change in redefining different industry boundaries and connecting increasingly into systems of systems. It will redefine competition and many existing organizations will undergo consolidation and takeover. The entrenched ways of competing will be the loser as the system that connects products will be the new core advantage, not the product alone.

The issue is how our organizations will incorporate smart, connected capabilities into its products to realize the potential of connecting technology, enabling a digital vision through different software, smart machines, the cloud, mobile device diversity and its management.

How it incorporates mobile applications, new architecture, connecting personal clouds with hybrid clouds, the IoT of social, industrial and nearly everything that a sensor, processor, piece of software and our connected world seems to be presently throwing at us. It is creating an evolution challenge.

This is going to require lots of trade-offs deciding what to do, what is possible or not and then more importantly what to not do as you do not have the capabilities for product being enabled or smart embedding.

A challenging pathway lies ahead – it requires a new IT understanding and appreciation.

Charting this potential impact by just working through the four building blocks of what does the connected values found in monitoring, controlling, optimization and autonomy begins the realization we are in a new age of connecting technology. It will reshape everything, it will be transforming.

Do you have the skills and abilities to compete?

Have you the ability these connected technologies and the systems will required available to you? Take a read of that HBR article, I think you will find it invaluable in thinking a little more deeply at what is coming towards all of us.

The smart, connected world threatens much of the established order; it will shape the new order.

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The Arrival of the Digital Monsoon for Innovation

tropical monsoon 2 If you ever have lived in the tropics you know of the arrival of the monsoons.

Skies darken, clouds gather, often thunder and lightning combine, the wind picks up and the rain ‘announces’ its arrival in sheer torrents of heavy, drenching, wave-upon-wave of unrelenting force.

It is hard to stand upright or know what to do. Everything around you transforms. Dry, often parched land quickly turns to rivers of water, seeking out everything to shift and move along and eventually going everywhere to transform the landscape.

We are presently being told we are at the beginnings of a digital revolution; it has been likened to a tsunami in its eventual (devastating) effect on our organizations and by inference, the impact it will have on each of our lives.

I certainly agree, through technology our innovation activities will be potentially transformed, but as we often see technology is running ahead of our organizing to receive it, understand what it can provide, both in its real value to translate these ‘insights’ into powerful new business models, products and services.

Of course the ‘hype’ is running ahead, just like the initial water flooding in, it is often just passing over the land and not being fully absorbed. Absorption takes time, it begins to sink in and its effect begins to ‘reveal’ themselves at different ‘rates of exchange’ for each of us.

Struggling with the effects of the digital economy

Digital transformationDigital matters, in its raw power and potential impact, I think it will be transformational. The real opening questions all center around our mind-set, preparation and willingness to make the changes. Or will we be sucked up in the void, choked by data?

If it is likened as a “digital tsunami” then ‘all within its path’ can be potentially swept away or altered forever.

The human organizing aspects need to catch up. Will they build defences to warn of future ‘waves’ or take the opportunity to tear down much that has been left standing and rebuild, to take advantage and equip themselves in new ways?

The unique combining of the cloud, big data, social streaming, the internet of things, mobility, the industrial internet, are all making this the time for new growth opportunities through this digital economy and the radical overhaul of the activities to realize the benefits.

Believe me, this is not going to be easy or a quick and painless change, it is going to radically alter much within our entities to receive, translate and transform this digital knowledge into impactful outcomes.

Three prospects that will come from transforming for digital.

1. The new prospects in Customer Experience

The immediate areas of new growth prospects and different engagement lie in changing the ‘Customer Experience’. Growing digital knowledge will enable greater customer understanding. We can begin to build new analytic-based market and customer segmentation; we can become more involved and informed about socially- influencing knowledge.

These can lead to a new top-line growth, more targeted marketing and the potential for streamlining or altering the customer engagement process. We can expand the ‘touch-points’ in new services, cross-channel experiences and coherence and in providing greater self-service and ’empowerment’ for our customers.

2. The transformation of Operational Processes

The second one is Operational Processes. Digitization will radically alter the design of the processes and especially the flow of data, to information, to knowledge, to move informed opportunity. Will it improve processes or collide with already outdated systems, tightly integrated and create a build-up and eventual crash?

Unbundling the integrated systems and replacing these with more of distributed application environments is going to be a major challenge. Completely new features, new approaches and ways to draw down the ‘appropriate’ application needed, will require the use of the cloud, of modular systems, plenty of apps but still locked away in a secure environment of approved applications to be used.

Just stop and think Apple’s app store, then apply this impact on our lives to business, drawing down from the same conceptual (business model) approach. There are going to be massively changed winners and losers for the race to unbundle, to one that will offer a more distributed environment where the user decided on what they need to use, to get the job done.

This will give a significant workforce enablement that wants to work anywhere and at different more flexible times, expecting high levels of response in what they use, to do the job on hand and enable them to build and communicate into ever changing and evolving knowledge sharing communities.

Knowing what, where and how, will be distributed down to the individual. These changes will be far more data-driven in insights and decision-making techniques, many unknown but necessary to allow performance to be timely, relevant and transparent.

3. The third area is the era of the new Business Model.

We have been ‘grappling’ with the concept of business model designing for some time. To a large degree the economic situations in Europe and America has held this back to be fully embraced in large organizations. They focused on ‘risk containment’, extracting the final juices out of effectiveness and efficiencies but that ‘well’ of opportunity is finally running dry and extracted.

Business needs to grow, it needs to stop hankering down, it needs to come out and explore the rapidly changing landscape in new and different ways.

Facing a digitally modified business landscape will need very different business models. The shift of resources, the transitioning and blending of the physical with the digital, the way digital will shape the structures, provide the ‘driving forces and insights,’ all will demand changing the business model.

We will see multiple business models that combine and blend product and service in very different ways, more tailored to new customer understanding and their demand and need.

What digital products will move alongside physical product, different services and how will that set of radical organization redesigns alter existing organization boundaries or established turf?

Agility and adaptability will be essential

Disruptive innovation 1The enterprise integration will need to be constantly evolving, adapting and become highly agile, it will totally redistributed, decision authority will move more rapidly towards evolving business models and distributive decision-making, to seize breaking opportunities quickly.

Those  that quickly go through piloting, pivoting through digital and physical learning into scalable models to capitalize on rapidly shifting trends, disrupting the existing.

Business models will not stand alone, they will interlock in intelligent ways, to benefit from scale that essential need of a greater appreciation of sharing services,  that will open up different partnerships, opportunities for shared cost of new channel developments, separate value propositions driven through common back office services and increasing platform management, to manage this

The key to unlock this new promise of growth is digital capabilities.

This is the ‘rub’. The human mediation of ‘going for it’ or ‘giving it lip service’ will determine a new class of winners and losers. Those that get it, embrace all of what it means and then choose to make radical changes and those at the other end of the spectrum, trying to keep it at bay, perhaps in denial. Those who will be playing with selected parts and not recognizing the eventual strategic decay that slowly trickles in, to undermine performance and shift customer perception away, into that different landscape of ‘digital engagement.’

Unlocking the human mindWe need to unlock our minds. The analytical capabilities are going to be the human roadblock. Algorithms are promising to partially unlock this and help us absorb this ‘torrent’ of data to make them ‘meaningful’ and ‘insightful’.

Then we have the difficult choice of solution delivery, of new integration of IT and the business of where authority will lie as well as that real need of ‘simply’ letting go, does need to be worked through will lead to some uncomfortable times.

The whole attempt to unify data, processes, reconciling both business and customer needs and delivering the process capabilities to enable the translation of date into insights, into business outcomes that have real growth potential will be a wicked challenge.

The immediate ‘getting organized’ challenge

The engagement within this needs real top management attention. Digital has the potential to destroy or change your organization. The existing landscape of business will change forever as this digital deluge or tsunami will alter our structures significantly.

Industry and Social competitive landscapes will be redefined, in many ways unknown today but all around us we have those ‘weak signals’ that require us to manage this transformation along the three horizon methodology I often espouse.

There are four opening steps within the digital challenge. We each within our organizations need to: 1) frame the digital challenge, 2) mobilize the organization, 3) focus investments and 4) sustain the digital transformation in multiple ways.

None is easy; all are hard as much is still  in the unknown and this is a real-time of leadership to be stepping up to the plate and showing its potential for making the winning hits or striking out.

There are so many roadblocks

Today organizations lack critical technology, tools and required skills, many existing systems still lack any form of real integration to allow data to flow across the organization, the business practices will mostly have to be rapidly relearn, senior leadership has the real, urgent need to get on the ‘same page’ and finally, this (radical) change will require reliance on managers that might lack the transforming skills, schooled in ‘containing and risk reduction’ and lacking real risk assessment and decision-making capabilities.

The pursuit of this digitization will ‘suck up’ an awful lot of funding, much of it constantly being thrown away as organizations transition from the existing to the preferred for it to be accelerated in being written off as part of the transition, alongside all those legacy systems sitting on today’s balance sheets. Are the ‘healthy’ financials for this in place in many of our organizations?

Organizations will scrabble to employ integration specialists, digital business architects, risk professionals and those critical analytical scientists. By 2018 Gartner predicts “digital business will require 50% less business process workers and 500% more digital business jobs. Attracting the right talent is the key to digital leadership”.

Finally, this is not going to be easy in presenting a business case that has ‘hard’ return on investments; it will be made up of what is known and can be quantified with a real leap of faith, a steady hand and real belief that transformation does actually mean that,  a total transformation. I’m not sure there are going to be many ‘half-way houses’ on this digital journey. It is promising to be a real evolution.

Some compelling numbers that “speak of a massive change

digital tsunami 2Let me raise a few arguments of this change hurtling towards us. Gartner offer some compelling numbers, “consider this, since 2013, 650 million new physical objects have come on-line; 3D printers became a billion dollar market; 10% of automobiles became connected, the number of Chief Data Officers and Chief Digital Officer positions have doubled”.

Yet fasten your seat belts, in 2015 alone, Gartner predicts these things will double again! Digital seems to have a certain compelling power to climb on board, fast.

Gartner also reckon the meshing of digital and physical and the rise of the Internet of Things, enterprise in 2014 will spend $40 billion designing, implementing and operating IoT.

The whole of IT is projected to pass $3.9 trillion in 2015 and all the spending will be driven by the digital economy needs.

Just a few more predicted facts

So are you beginning to build that compelling case for change? By 2015, more than half of traditional consumer products will have native digital extensions and by 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be directed to customer experience innovations, as the key to lasting brand loyalty.

The dark side of Gartner predictions lie in this “by year-end 2016, 50% of digital transformation activities will be unmanageable due to a lack of portfolio management skills, with high levels of operational risk and the whole discipline of risk management will simply not be able to keep up.

Then Accenture  believes big data analytics, seen as essential for competitive growth that are needed for the Industrial Internet are projecting this will be worth $500 billion in worldwide spending by 2020, taking into account hardware, software and service sales.

Already certain early leaders in this industrial internet race are placing 20% of their overall technology budgets into Big Data analytics. Just take a few minutes to look at the really big bet that GE are making on the industrial internet and the power of big data, investing already a billion dollars and still significantly investing. They plan to lead.

Going for the big prize being dangled in front of us.

digital tsunami 1The big prize that digitization offers is gaining market share on those that do not quickly follow, many unable to ever catch up or recover if they leave it too late and then one of the consequences is that the talent will move to those that ‘get it’ leaving those competitors that don’t even more vulnerable.

Over time investors begin to alter their investment portfolio, attempting to predict the winners and putting space between them and who they see as eventual losers.

I think the digital monsoon has arrived; you can watch in fascination, pick up and run for your lives, as the torrent of data rains down on you or attempt to prepare for all the uncertainty it brings. It will alter much in tough choices and challenges and a landscape that will be very different when this ‘torrent’ of change subsides.


Acknowledgement: I want to thank the MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting, Gartner, Accenture, GE and numerous others that are exploring and explaining the impact of the digital economy, so as to help me in my own recognition of such a ‘force of change’ coming towards us.

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Lay out the path, get out of the way but please give me ambition.

European Commission and FlagToday we see a new commission elected in Europe. As a European you always want this to be a new beginning, a new hope, perhaps a new start for Europe. Jean-Claude Junker has become the new president of the European commission and along with his new Commission team have been setting out their priorities for regaining momentum for Europe.

I was re-reading Mr Junker’s policy agenda based on “Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change” and you realise not just the complexity and challenge all this entails, bringing 28 countries along still, it seems, a pathway that still talks “a single union.”

It prompted this post.

My interest here relates clearly around innovation, it touches everything but for it to achieved and delivered as a new promise, it needs the necessary conditions.

I’m been looking for critical aspects that will signal a healthy or difficult road ahead for Europe, sensing the specific change projects that do give us the new opportunities for growth and jobs, and either a vibrant or stagnated period ahead of us.

Three policy intents stand out as high in innovation possibilities.

Mr Junker sets out his ten policy areas and expects to be judged on the results from achieving progress towards these. Let’s quickly highlight these ten policy thrusts:

Firstly, and I think the overriding need for Europe is to remain competitive, does comes from the correct identification of “a Connected Digital Single Market”, then constructing a “Resilient Energy Union” and thirdly “Strengthen the Industrial Base.

These three policy directions offer real innovation promise. These are where there is significant innovation, jobs and growth but still lacking, in my opinion, a set of cohesive social directives that we can gather around that make us see why. We are seemingly focusing on the edges and not striking at the ‘heart’ of social issues that Europe needs to address.

Other policy intents outlined

There are statements of “a deeper and fairer internal market”, the wish to “converge economic, fiscal and labour market policies”, the quest for a “balanced free trade agreement with the U.S” and a “Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy” but these have a more economic ring to them but lack substantive outcomes.

Mr Junker raises the political and socially political issues of “Justice and Fundamental Rights”, a wish to have a “New Policy on Migration” but they only play at the edges, important ones without doubt but skirt the social tensions that ‘simmer away’ within Europe.

Are we connecting into or still ignoring the underlying social tensions?

I think when you face the lack of growth; of getting millions of people back into jobs and having “trust in the European project is at a historical low” in Mr Junkers words, I’m not sure we have made the new start for Europe that Mr Junker wants.

He wants to “rebuild bridges” to restore European citizen’s confidence yet he provides in his words “an ambitious Jobs, Growth and Investment Package” of an extra Euro 300 billion into the real economy over the next three years, is that really enough to ‘kick start’ the economies across Europe? This sum might send a signal but it lacks real resolve and boldness.

Much of Mr Junker’s presidency will be determined by his ability to deliver on this. It is going to be a hard fight to find the money as it needs to be additional to the existing budgets or he is forced to find this within the existing budgets. That will be determined by the 28 member states and then by the European parliament.

Is this enough, of course not if it stands alone to kick start the economies, but it is a serious amount of money to find at difficult times. As this request has been wrapped up as “additional” I would feel it is going to be tough to achieve, when it does seems to come from a part of Mr Junkers opening statement in the European Parliament, of “we need smarter investment, more focus, less regulation and more flexibility when it comes to the use of these public funds”. He might find the answer back is “well find it then in what you have.”

Approval of any additional funds opens the door to considerable re-jockeying of hard-won positions already established. All of this will add further to the current ‘disillusionment’ within the EU system if this becomes a public wrangle between the 28 member states. I feel it will be ‘pinched’ from current budgets and that becomes a worry or is simply re-crafted away from general budgets into specifics.

The Horizon 2020 budget might be vulnerable

This is the innovation package of Euro 80 billion to push Industrial leadership (Euro 17 b), Excellence in Science (Euro 24.4 b) and Social Challenges (Euro 29.7b) as the big three pillars. Let’s hope this gets ring fenced and the call for injecting Euro 300b into the economy over the next three years is on top, not shifting the lines of the budget, as it becomes a considerable infusion, much-needed in this current economic horizon.

The critical messages and debate we need to discuss in Europe lies here

Again in Mr Junkers own words “Europe is finding it is often ill-prepared for the global challenges ahead, be it with regard to the digital age, the race for innovation and skills, the scarcity of natural resources, the safely of our food, the cost of energy, the impact of climate change, the ageing of our population, or the pain and poverty at Europe’s external borders”

In Mr Junkers call he believes any additional investment should be directed towards “infrastructure, notably broadband and energy networks, as well as transport infrastructure in industrial centres; education, research and innovation; and in renewable energy”

The intent is to get the “younger generation back to work in decent jobs” with this investment providing for “new, sustainable and job-creating projects that help restore Europe’s competitiveness”

The problem with this  is we are not equipping much of the younger generation with the skills of the future jobs, we are locking them into the past and denying them the chance to be exposed to these rapidly changing skills that industry is arguing are needed.

Here is one real, difficult challenge that will continue to drain away future competitiveness unless it is adequately addressed.

So a new start in Europe or are we seeing just an extension of the existing?

I sense the extending of the existing, I’m not sure I see a crafting of a new vision, a new direction, we are still locked into the “decades of European integration” on being the continued, ongoing focus on not to be undone at any price. I certainly don’t want a radical ‘undoing’ but Mr Junkers “rebuild bridges” I feel is directed at the 28 country entities and not at, and for, the European citizenry. We are caught up in too much national politics and jostling in the European Union and that will eventually ‘come home to roost’

So I’m not sure I buy the new approach, the “New start for Europe.”  I think the incoming commission and Mr Junker might have missed a historical moment for Europe, setting their sights on billion-euro spending and not really making that leap into trillion-euro opportunities – articulating the bigger picture.

There is a real need for an overarching ‘European Ambition’, we  lack a bold new vision.

We still lack real economic enabling ‘ambition’. It is not wrapped up in a pursuit of the Union of Countries, as this seems socially unacceptable, it is wrapped up in a “Union of Grand Challenges” that the 28 countries can unite behind for the good of their people.

“Delivering on unifying digital, energy, building infrastructure, moving back to our industrialisation base, built on deep research and development, delivered through innovation, knowledge and education at the core can bring us those trillion-euro opportunities for new jobs and growth“- now that provides the ambition intent I feel .

They are within the policy bases covered by Mr Junker but not in the bold, essential ways we really do need to regain the initiative and regain momentum. He lost the opportunity to create a clear, compelling reason to unite behind these in laying out what this actually does mean to fail on these or what they can give, and by not doing this it might have consigned us to a further period of stuttering, indecisive leadership at the very time it needs to be radically different.

Europe is in crisis, it might not be going away

Europe lacks a forward momentum; it suffers lowering productivity, a growing imbalance between the right jobs and places to focus growth to get the economic growth back.
We seem locked in internal ‘competitive politics’, external lack of competitiveness and regional and national disparities that drag down any commercial outcomes that might improve our performance.

Of course I wish Mr Junker well and his commissioners, they are not in an enviable place but nor is Europe, we are in a very tough, demanding world where ‘innovation and being competitive’ requires a boldness, an increased sense of ‘what is at stake’ by not looking in our rear-view mirror but in the future coming towards us.

I just hope we have the capabilities to steer towards this future and not keep pulling over to fix the engine while others continue to pass us, already on cruise control.

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Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation

SurrondedFinally I am completely surrounded. I have that feeling of being somewhat overwhelmed, I can’t twist and turn any more, it simply will not go away. Do I throw myself off the building or decide to listen a little longer? It really is forcing me to think.

Today it seems whenever I pick up a business book each chapter has a section on it. Also I seem not to be able to not fall over all the articles extolling its virtues, I mindlessly “Google it” and you can see your whole life flash before you, if you decided to investigate this seriously.

What am I talking about?  Well nothing other than Design Thinking. I know, most of you are so heavily into this you feel you might as well ‘flip’ over to the next article but are you, really?

Design thinking is a mindset

If we believe we can make a difference and even have gone that one step further, many never seem to get there, where we have an intentional process to get us to new relevant solutions that do actually create a positive impact. Then we are getting closer to that ‘magic point’ of transforming ourselves and those complex challenges, into opportunities to be designed and developed to make that difference. Now that would not be such a bad place to be.

Someone has talked me off the ledge, I give in and I want that embracing mindset

  • One that allows me to be human-centred where empathy and understanding of others needs takes precedence.
  • One that allows me to be even more collaborative, where I can link my (great) mind with the views of others, those who can bring multiple perspectives into my own thinking.
  • A place where optimistic thinking prevails, where you chase for solutions that overcome multiple constraints and the work becomes an enjoyable process.
  • Finally, somewhere where it is allowed that you become ’experimental’, given a permission to fail and learn from your mistakes. Why? Because you become resilient, you bounce back with different ideas, you seek out important feedback on them, then you learn to iterate even better than before.

You are a work-in-progress of forward momentum. You become an experimenter and this ‘magic pill’ called design thinking is all about learning by doing. You begin to believe and gain new confidence that new, better things ARE possible and you can make them happen. That gives you real optimism.

So I’ve come off the ledge, have you?

What will design thinking get you? The chance to be more involved in collaboration, one that permits me to be more creative to boost my confidence and where I can learn new ways to engage with others in a defined process and a process that will help me get unstuck, and sounds like it is more fun than where I have been. Maybe somewhere near you there is a Design Thinking AA group.

So what does this Design Thinking process look like?



(Image source: IDEO)

So we need to start learning how to put this design thinking into more everyday practice

Design thinking really is ‘design doing’ or ‘design making’ than simply just thinking. It leads the upfront framing before solutions are explored. The framing and solutions need to be separated. The pleasure of design thinking is it’s an iterative process, it wants you to experiment, to build prototypes to develop your knowledge, to go out and test them, to talk about them and progressively validate the concept.

It brings ambiguity into a sharper understanding that eventually moves from all the divergence that initially surrounded it, into a growing convergence. It allows you to move from a concept or initial idea, through a number of working hypothesis, eventually into a final product, business model or service, that is not just new to the world but seen as valuable and an improvement on the existing solutions.

The great thing about design thinking: it’s evolving itself

We are relating design thinking into a great set of tools that can help identify and execute opportunities for growth and innovation. Darden Business School has been leading from the front in this, alongside Ideo and if we just consider ten of these, can you within your organizations feel comfortable that you are actually applying these in your innovation practices?

These are:

  • 1) Visualization
  • 2) Journey mapping
  • 3) Value Chain analysis
  • 4) Mind Mapping
  • 5) Rapid concept development
  • 6) Assumption testing
  • 7) Prototyping
  • 8) Customer co-creation
  • 9) Learning launches and finally
  • 10) Storytelling

How many of these practices are you building into your innovation process to explore and exploit?

I’m very much into Divergent and Convergent thinking

You need both to explore and exploit the multiple possible solutions. Divergent thinking is the ability and opportunity to offer different, unique or variant ideas adherent to one theme, while convergent thinking is the (eventual) ability to find the ‘correct’ solution to the given problem. You encourage and ideate many solutions, both possible and impossible, and then use convergent thinking to move towards a realizable resolution or solution.

I use this ‘divergent and convergent’ structure for many of my workshops, it allows for broader engagement and involvement and that eventual drawing together from this process. Once or twice you have to be nimble on your feet to move from one to the other but the discipline comes from timing these as shared spaces.

The focus becomes one of Validity

Seeking valid answers is the crux of Design Thinking. The process really is a “knowledge funnel” according to Roger Martin, ex Dean of Rotman School of Management. You keep ‘driving’ towards this eventual ‘validity’ by encouraging a future-oriented view. To think in the ‘future’ we do need to think differently, as most of our minds are caught up in the here and now and that tends to keep us locked in the status quo.

We need to design in a different mindset. Envisaging a future state is not easy, it requires observation, imagination and potential for configuration. We need to seek out patterns; we need to keep re-framing our thinking. Design thinking becomes an essential part of that set of abilities.

So to be relevant, you need design principles


(Image source: IDEO)

If we think about inspiration, ideation and implementation we already lift ourselves out of our everyday. What does it take to seek out and strengthen those higher-impact connections and relationships? What does it take to move beyond the existing and strive to define some more high-impact challenges, then how do we amplify the potential impact?

We need principles, and design thinking can allow you to follow a clear pathway to realization of better innovation. Can you feel it is beginning to surround you too? Jump but this time jump into design thinking, it might help you turn your ideas into those things that can really have an impact to your future and your organizations.

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it on my own site. I recommend you should visit the Hype blog site where they have a range of contributors writing about a wide-ranging mix of ideas and thoughts around innovation, its well worth the visit.


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Are you hearing all the voices for ideas?


So where do ideas come from? The most popular one is the ‘voice of the customer’ yet this is one of the many ‘voices’ that need to be allowed to speak.

In this fuzzy front end of innovation where ideas are generated, there are many places we can ‘discover and listen’ to the voices that will provide concrete ideas and concepts. Let’s take the time to recognize these and ask you, the reader, do you have a systematic plan to capture all these voices?

The Voice of the Customer

The most talked about place to find the ideas that are closer and relevant are the search for new ideas around the jobs needing to be done (jtbd). We get closer to these voices when we use a variety of techniques that give this voice its chance to speak. We do this through customer focus groups, user panels, customer surveys, lead-user research, direct observation of the user in their environment, and allowing ourselves to become fully immersed in a customer’s experience.

You can read What if customers evaluated your company’s ideas? posted by Hutch Carpenter or Want to be Successful at Innovation? Start exploring your Customers’ “Jobs to be done”! posted by Elena Ozeritskaya  over on the Hype blog and so many more around “jobs to be done” or “ideation” but please don’t forget the many other voices that need to be heard and the thinking behind these voices captured as they are equally of potentially great value.

The Voice of the Value Chain

We can gather plenty of ideas when we have visits to our suppliers and listen to their engineering, their specialists that work with our products or the production of the materials, even work alongside their product development staff as they often have broader industry exposure than we do, within our own organization. We can construct more formal cooperative and technology agreements and exchanges with our suppliers to find new ways to collaborate.

Also by spending time ‘in the field or market place’ we can discuss with the many players in the distribution system (distributors, wholesalers, customers, final retailers or those closest to our final point of sale. We can then ourselves look at all the stages along the value chain for opportunities to innovate in different ways. Just imagine all the collaborators working with your company that have knowledge that would contribute.

The Voices within the Organization

The more your innovation strategy is known internally the more likely you are to focus your opportunity investigations and draw out those rich ‘nuggets’ that lie somewhere within your organizations experiences or insights. You can deliberately organize an operational capabilities audit to see what it might reveal in improvements or fresh ideas.

The attraction of brainstorming both within your functional and cross-functional groups can offer so much but the brainstorming techniques need to generate excitement and be seen as well worth the time and engagement, otherwise these can fail badly. Often we miss the chance to systematically and equally on ad hoc occasions talk with the sales team in some structured ways to reveal their insights.

We should also remember many of the employee’s at the company might be users and will certainly offer an opinion that might provide some very frank and honest feedback.  Of course, there is that tried and tested new product idea suggestion scheme or contest but these do need to really offer something, besides money to gain real contributors value. Lastly you might want to build or tap into a company idea bank.

The Voice of the Industry

We often ignore what is going on around us, many companies don’t really have good intelligence gathering systems, they tend to stay within very limited silo’s. There is absolutely no reason for this as the capturing of trends, of new patents, reading prospectus or annual reports can yield much that can generate fresh ideas and point to future directions. Often a company belongs to numerous professional associations yet those attending fail to pick up some possible ideas as they feel this is not their job, we need to make it theirs.

The number of technical conferences that people within the organization attend gives such a productive source of insights but are they actually being ‘fed back’ into the system or just stay with the attendee alone?

Then how often is your organization participating in different standards committees, where you are often given great clues of the ‘collective’ thinking of trends, issues, roadblocks that might all lead to breakthrough ideas to gain real competitive advantage.

The key to all of these being well-captured is putting to use the idea management software and make it mandatory those that attend and engage come back and ‘file’ a ideas report for those responsible for product or service development get the chance to ‘touch and feel’ the ideas emerging around them.

Voice of the Experts

So many consultants, training professionals, advisor’s are interacting daily with your company, are you tapping into this source of knowledge? Do you consider setting up focus groups with industry experts; take time out to tap into a consulting practice for its broader expertise deliberately for extracting ideas. Do you work with universities or individual facility members who can contribute different thinking and provide a rich source of knowledge?

Do you think about setting up some specific dedicated time for ‘walking around’ ideas with your research companies or consultants? Do you ever allow for providing a dedicated time that puts the product ‘brief’ on one side for the moment and just talks and exchanges? How often do you make contact through venture and equity fund that specialise in your industry and how these can offer up some very focused insights into your thinking.

Lastly within our experts the relationships with government labs and private R&D labs are very engaged in leading edge concepts and knowing and understanding these can dramatically alter your own perceptions.

Then we have the voice of Secondary Research

It always staggers me how academic papers are shunned and discounted yet offer such a rich source of insights and investigation. Of course Google and the many different internet search engines can yield some interesting ideas but how often do we never dedicate the time or fail to go past the second or third page. I have found on page 8 or even ten often a search item that dramatically alters my thinking. These searches take time on the internet and you do have to stay focused and disciplined to extract all that you can as the ‘search strands’ can often take you so widely off course you wonder how you got there.

Of course you have trade articles, white papers; competitor’s analysis, trade press clippings, but I wonder how systematic you really are in these? You should be.

Lastly patent scans can be deadly boring, try doing those across twenty or so countries in multiple languages, it can be tough but thankfully these searches are getting easier, just go and visit the Pharmaceutical or Computer / internet related organizations to understand their leading practice in this and how strategically import this is to them. It will make your efforts seem minuscule in comparison.

Ideas can come from so many places – are you systematically listening?

We think of idea management systems in such narrow ways. Strategically across your organization you should find ways where all ideas can get captured, where everyone working within the organization knows contributing knowledge, insights, intelligence and thinking can make a contribution.

Do you have a clear and precise plan to capture all those ideas that are whirling around or are so many ideas just left ignored, never captured or simply drowned out by your fixation and focus only upon the sources that might just be scratching the surface?

Perhaps you should give the many voices the chance to be heard? 

Publishing note:  This blog post was originally written on behalf of Hype and with their permission I have republished it on my own site. I recommend you should visit the Hype blog site where they have a range of contributors writing about a wide-ranging mix of ideas and thoughts around innovation, its well worth the visit.


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Connected Enterprise, Connected World

Connecting the WorldI was delighted to be invited onto a panel with GE at their R&D centre in Munich this week. Dubbed “Innovation Breakthroughs – Igniting Europe’s Growth” They were celebrating 10 years of theopening of the centre and as you arrived, you saw the cranes at work to double the facility as well as further deepen their commitments within the surrounding community even further.

One such community success story has been the co-location they have with the Technical University of Munich (TUM), where both have evolved to share a real philosophy of creating new knowledge and make it available for the industrial innovation process through this partnership. They combine in a number of “sweet spots” or research domains, that move the academic creative contributions of science into the industrial researchers alongside, working to advance products, bringing these concepts to commercial fruition.

The event also combine with the announcement of Euro €18.5 Million in New Research Program Funding announced as GE Marks the 10th Anniversary of its Global Research Centre in Europe with its university partners. A futher community commitment.

Alongside side this announcement, a White Paper was issued on “The State of European Innovation”, drawing down from the GE Innovation Barometer  and from other resources.

I have always liked to read with interest this set of Barometer insights,  and have enjoyed commenting upon (here for example) the results that are published each year. The GE Innovation Barometer I think really does offer valuable insights of innovation thinking by over 3,000 leaders in larger business organizations. It offers good insights into the inner thinking about innovation that has practical implications.

A quick tour of the R&D facilities reveals much about a company

While I was there, I was lucky enough to take a “quick” tour of the GE facility after my small contribution into a fascinating set of debates earlier in the day. I can honestly state the passion, commitment and sense of pride in all the researchers I meet was impressive. It goes way, way beyond putting on a positive spin to the visitor, it is a deep desire and I think a real motivation to push advancement.

Before I went to Munich I really got caught up in GE and its evolving story.

From the outside looking into GE I had felt it was evolving but I was not able to get ‘under the hood’ and see the ‘powerful forces’ that seem to be at work. This event helped trigger that growing awareness and brought it significantly to life for me.

GE often use an awful lot of ‘convening words’ that make you curious to connect into their technologies, their industry areas and explain how and where these are evolving. I think this thinking has been ‘cranking up’ significantly in the past couple of years, and for good reasons. GE has a good evolving story to tell.

Included in their portfolio are some of the essential aspects of our lives, they connect us, connect enterprises and advance many things and reshape the future. When you here about “mapped minds”, “brilliant factories”, “extreme machines”, “energy everywhere”, “super materials” and finally their take of the “industrial internet” it confronts you. That was how I felt when I walked through the doors into their lobby area.

For me it was going to be a promising day.

Irrespective of how or where I could contribute, I knew I was going to learn a lot from the event. As it turned out the panel I was invited upon became fairly lively. I had the pleasure of being on a panel that included Mark Little, the Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Office for GE, Jean Botti, the Chief Technical and Innovation Officer for the Airbus Group and Christian Cahn von Seelen, the Head of Corporate Strategy, China and India Business at Skoda Auto.

The audience ranged from politicians, and senior representatives across industry, research institutions and health and the Q & A I felt could have gone on and on, debating Europe’s innovating future. We simply touched the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as there are equally dangers lurking not just under the surface as complex problems to tackle.

Yet equally, such a positive mass of deep knowledge, real tangible successes and high  absorption of learning across Europe, all needs to be picked apart, mapped out and reconnected in new ways, does provide the promising future in innovative ways to get Europe moving again, in growth, jobs and unified commitments. I only wish it was less left in Politicans and Bureacratic hands and our instritutions and business leaders were more deeply involved in shaping the process, not just lobbying for their specific part.

Plenty of pride, some angst.

Sitting in Germany you can always ‘feel’ that real pride, a clear determination and belief in the achievements made and plenty yet to come- Equally you know what will be delivered in much of the approaches can be summarized as making connected sense. Sometimes the rest of Europe does seem to want to ‘pull’ in other ways and that is hard to understand from a German’s perspective. This is part of ‘our’ creative tensions in Europe to be bridged.

It is part of the challenges we face in Europe, connecting all the diversity and opinions of 28 countries to get growth and a real momentum within the European economy going again. Debating the required innovation fits across Europe is complex and challenging.

What I liked in my visit was a reminder that if you combine much that is good from one culture and fuse it in thoughtful ways that capitalise on the diversity of the other or across many, you can really see tangible results. Collaborating on big challenges would be one ‘unifier’.

I think the combination of the fusion of the mindsets of an American company that believes it is a scale-based entrepreneur organization, managing in complicated technologies and ‘big things’ and a collection of bright researching minds, all drawn from not just across Europe but many part of the world, sitting next to a university (TUM) that are plugging into the German way of doing things is a good example of this collaborating across big challenges.

Of course, managing in complex situations across cultures can be frustrating but this host of ‘connected points’ strikes me to be a winning formula. Of course in GE’s case, you throw in the connected nine Global Research centres you certainly ‘sense’ this motion towards an accelerating future within GE. 2,000 scientists and engineers and 50,000 technologists. It can make you pause for breath, it’s simply impressive, and ‘living proof’ of connecting minds, knowledge, cultures  with machines on how it can generate results that are advancing on what we know today in significant ways.

Then we have the wave of connecting minds and machines.

Mark Little the Chief Technology Officer for GE was heading out of the door early afternoon to catch the flight to get him back to GE’s next event, of connecting minds and machines being held the next day. Now this promises a different, potentially radical new future in industry and GE are placing a lot of resource and commitments into it.

GE are taking a real lead here. In the last three years they have been ramping up their thinking, dubbed “the industrial internet” and moving into the power of connected industrial assets (the machines) through embedding sensor technology everywhere on the machine, bringing back its data from oftem hostile environments and through the analytics applied can turn this into ‘intelligent information.’ This offers the potential of real-time decision making, delivering required and necessary insights at the right time, to the operators and business decision makers so as to manage that dreaded aspect all industries fear of “downtime” better. It also allows for managing more efficiently and effectively the assets.

Already I gather GE has put over £1 billion into this potential game changing move to transform industry. CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt’s opening to this event with his headline view: “if you went to bed last night as an Industrial company, you are going to wake up in the morning as a software and analytical company” where the separation between data and industry has vanished. Does this change the business model, I think so.

Of course Jeff Immelt is saying this, he runs a “big bets company” and they are setting about transforming industry for competitive advantage. Yet again though, it is the way they seem to be setting about it that makes you feel it is happening and shifting the dynamics of big asset business, in significant ways.

Platforms, Partnerships and the Ecosystem

I strongly believe the future of collaboration is going to be based around platforms and ecosystems, where you bring together the minds and the business interest, gathered around specific but complex issues to solve. GE are working on delivering this.

Through their platform of Predix, GE are providing “industrial-strength software and analytics” and spoke of having 40 apps ready for customer use today at this event. They are also throwing open the platform for others to use, build and develop their apps. GE will offer the backbone, architecture, resilience, and security for others to come onto this platform with growing confidence and work towards ‘apps’ that are even more tailor-specific to their needs beyond ‘just’ sensors.

The partners already working with delivering from this platform are Cisco, Intel and Accenture and GE’s investment in Pivotal, will mean the amount of time GE executives will be spending in San Francisco building the resources behind this is a space worth following.

I gather they have 800 data scientists and GE are on a further massive recruit to ramp this up, well over doubling this in the region, to attract and blend the best in talent, software and analytics. I also gathered they have been but recruiting the ‘forty something’ person as well for their business experience, as they sit down and work through issue upon issue with their customers.

It is clearly evolving at some speed, GE are delivering the Medici Effect of breakthrough insights at the intersections of ideas, concepts and cultures. as our world becomes more intersectional when we merge one field into a new, unfamiliar territory for these radical changes in how we will manage in the future.

The combinations of smart machines, enabling technologies, big data modelling and analytics and determining the customer outcomes in increasing collaborations, will radically alter the Business Model of GE in future years, in ways that we yet can’t imagine.

As I left the R&D centre in Munich

As I look up at the crane as I left and saw the shell of the additional building going up in Munich, I can imagine that science, research and technology will fuse in ways that we are only beginning to grasp. I wonder what type of mix of skills that group of future employees will have, far more a blend, perhaps more broad set, rather than one that is deep only.

We will be seeing software services, a changing portfolio strategy and GE’s scientists, researchers and engineers all managing not just in their deep domains of knowledge but broadening out into far greater engagements alongside customers. It alters and unleashes.

Combining in future ways with the chosen universities, institutions and partners, increasing working through and on these platforms. where collaboration and co-creation will move way beyond today’s open innovation concepts, focusing on bringing ‘synergies’ that deliver those vital winning outcomes.

The future era of innovation suddenly looks even brighter.

So those Asset-intensive industries that are looking to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and search to unlock new sources of customer value, are moving into a ‘connected realisation’ that will bring the industrial internet into increasing focus. It will sit alongside the social side, where the internet of things (IoT) has been making most of the running to date, encrouching far more of our business and personal lives.

The promise of deep, lasting connections and relationships all seem to be offering innovation in a new era of prosperity, were connected enterprise and the connected world come together with very different business models, built on this ‘promise’ of platforms and ecosystems, delivering in very tangible ways through a collaborative common cause.

A place where “Everything connects,” a book written recently by Faisel Hoque, is suggesting where people, insights, capital, infrastructure and ecosystems combine. One where the age of creativity, innovation and sustainability come together as the needed skills required to be continually adaptive.

I’m all for that era. We are at perhaps an infliction point on the way we are thinking, managing, and collaborating in a connected universe for new growth possibilities. I’d like to believe so and from what I can see, GE are well on their way in working this out in their own, highly focused way.

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The Real Race is to Invest in Knowledge Assets and Grand Innovation Challenges

Connecting Knowledge and Grand Challenges 1We need to connect our knowledge and put these assets into solving ‘grand challenges.’ Lets focus on the bigger picture here.

Developing our knowledge and then putting it to good use gives us the potential for securing a competitive position- that goes without saying, perhaps.

Living in Europe offers us enormous history, diversity and a constant respect for the make-up of its different cultures. Europe is a very proud continent forged from this history of competitiveness but it is grappling with its place in the global world where others seem to have greater present day advantage.

For many, Europe seems stalled; in jobs, growth and its future space, it seems not so sure on what and where it can effectively compete in a complex and challenging world. There are so many competing voices within, draining vital energy, while others outside Europe are getting on with the job of equipping themselves for the changes taking place to effectively compete in today’s world.

The forging of the European Union needs more ‘heat’ to meld into the force that many want, yet every time it seems to be getting to that required temperature for effecting a real change, someone or something comes along and throws ‘cold water’ on it.

“Herding cats”

Perhaps that idiomatic saying of “herding cats” summarizes many of the discussions and debates that often occur all over Europe, offering up their part of the solution to what seems to me, increasingly an intractable problem. There is this ongoing attempt to control or organize what seems intent on staying uncontrollable or chaotic.

It just seems incredibly difficult to get the required direction or united determination to channel ‘our’ energies, perhaps impossible is a growing feeling that is fuelling even more the nationalistic pride built from centuries of disputes and disagreements in alternating alliances of the day.

Europe in whatever eventual union or collection of entities needs to stop focusing inward as that seems simply not to help. It needs to look outwards and recognize the challenges it needs to go after and organize around, that shift the ground it competes uon, so it can offer the foundations to build from for many of these individual voices to unite to move all those concerns that need clarity, work and a sense of clear direction. We are focusing on the right aspects to unite behind, to identify with and combine our unigue resources.

At present we are all pulling in our own directions, to secure our own piece of the declining economic pie and that is undermining any ability for improved performance.

“Fiddling while Rome burns”

You do get this sense we enjoy “crisis and opportunity”. The institutions and bodies that are set up to lay out the broad direction within the EU, start with good intention and then occupy themselves with a host of unimportant or less important matters and neglect priorities during a crisis. They get lost in the details, determined to defend and spend the budgets and lose sight of the need for clear commercial or social outcomes.

The source of this “fiddling while Rome burns” is the story that Nero played the fiddle (violin) while Rome burned, during the great fire in AD 64. The flaw in this was there was no such instrument as the fiddle (violin) invented in first century Rome. Equally the events of a fire have been constructed in all the rivalries and conflicting accounts that came after. I get a sense of this today within the EU, we are failing to orchestrate even the violin player, everyone is playing their own tune!

Europe stands at a real crossroads today, where it travels determines its future

It can stay locked up in conflicts, often chaotic decision-making, in its many disputes and simmering rivalries or it can learn from those events across its history and find a different path.

I doubt that path is integration of countries, even freedom of movement or common currencies or a given language. These are ideals suffering from imposition yet we can integrate and combine in ways that allow us as individuals to prosper and grow but also to unite in projects and across challenges that deliver a more promising future.

Grand challenges we can unite behind.

These comes from the challenges that should be of the uttermost importance to our future well-being:

1. The long drawn out integrating the digital infrastructure across Europe to bring down the present barriers and allow less of a divide across Europe.
2. The ability to connect across a European energy grid that delivers on security, and is moving purposefully towards clean and efficient alternatives that are economically viable alternatives.
3. The formation of a scientific research community
4. The harmonization of intellectual property to accelerate invention not just protect it
5. The overhaul to our educational system to deliver the required skills we need for the future not based on the past.
6. Putting in place the roadmap to renewables that give investment confidence
7. Adding even more momentum towards key-enabling technologies
8. Having a reusable framework that reduces the ‘throw-away’ culture and mind-set
9. Tackle health and wellbeing in clear, coordinated and integrated ways across all.
10. Redoubling the efforts on food security, sustainable agriculture and land and sea management through a greater agricultural revolution.

I could add a few more but these are all ‘big bites’. We should possible go back to the approach to EU flagship programmes where the big agenda gets the required focus from politicians, bureaucrats, business and our institutions, at every level and engaging in meaningful ways with our broader society, then we are achieving more in ‘common cause’ and integration than where we have been heading recently.

We should push the EU agenda towards delivering integrated models to offer new value and opportunities, the innovation part, as central to achieving the need for new growth and jobs.

These big challenges give us our future, they break down the barriers, they open up our minds to what is the real borders to protect, to push out towards in different ways If we can unlock the barriers and ring fencing on many of these that are the blocks today, we are laying in the foundation for growth and jobs.

There is nothing new in this appeal but the speed of change occurring outside Europe requires us to shift internal disputes and channel this energy into resolving the big challenges.

Europe needs to shoot for a different moon.

Structural issues are longstanding, we are attempting to protect far too much, we are falling to move towards a ‘creative destruction’ where innovation-lead solutions provide the better alternative in growth and challenge We link to these common causes as they benefit the individual, as well as the communities we are in (national, local, scientific, educational etc).

The push for a common market of ideas and knowledge that are allowed to flow

I detect some positive movement in seizing some of these outstanding big challenges in the way the European commission is being set up and structured. The new commission structure is pointing to big issues; it is veering away from past integration mantras, wanting to deliver on some of these challenges suggested above.

I just hope it does not extend the list too much or we go down the path of dilution, spreading and stretching our capabilities and resources too thin and ending up with the usual past compromises, all wrought out in eleventh hour late night deals. Of course this is perhaps wishful thinking and certainly early days.

Can we move out of our fiscal consolidation mind-set? We must

As we continue to have fiscal consolidation, we get rising Euroscepticism. We nibble away not so much at the edges we are actually attacking our core and this is where we are facing the defence of knowledge assets and finding ways to promote by, perhaps, uniting behind our bigger EU challenges.

So where does innovation fit, I’d say front and centre. Every conversation in every boardroom, in every political meeting, at each EU summit and discussion, it is the outcomes we await to hear. These need to be far more centred around innovation in outcome, not just in nice declarations with little behind them but in cohesive plans that move us towards this agenda of tackling the ‘Big Challenge Agenda’

Scaling and building innovation waves

We need to scale and create the positive waves through innovation. Reality is not in what is going on inside Europe, it is what is happening elsewhere. It is the organization of those knowledge assets to scale and develop the waves of innovation that Asia and America are clustering around in better ways than in Europe.

These can be seen in numerous ways as geographical regions all look for ways to become the dominant force for innovation. Asia, especially China is testing that existing dominance and Europe and others in the West need to embrace that challenge, not attempt to defend against it in legislative efforts but in this necessary knowledge asset re-equipping.

Keeping innovation high on the EU agenda but in new bigger ways

Innovation features higher in national policy than ever before in many parts of the world. Let us all hope Europe does not drop the innovation ball, but cutting its commitments to what has already been hard fought over, delivered in the Horizon 2020 programme.

Equally let’s not dilute its effort and whittle away its value in thousands of small, perhaps meaningless gestures built on political threat and fragmented thinking. Getting Europe moving again will need a much bolder vision and then stay focused on funding it if it links into these grand challenges in clear or valuable (experimental) ways that can be a catalyst for others to pick up and run with over the next mile, as innovation is not a sprint, it is a marathon to run, at this big challenge level.

Who is that knocking on my door?

* China has set itself some ambitious innovation targets, in its production of patents, in producing more PhD’s in science and engineering than US institutions or European ones and twice as many undergraduates in these fields than the US.

* China is going about outpacing the US in investments in research and development, it is growing R&D expenditure by 15 to 20% per year, not just to catch up but to drive innovation into its future.

* Asia and America invest more than Europe in R&D at the ratio of 3:3:2. The technology-intensive activity in the Asian region is fast approaching that of North America and Western Europe.

* China’s invention initiatives are producing rapid results as the government seeks increasing actively in cooperation’s with its Asian competitors. Asian countries are mutually fuelling one another’s innovative success

* The precise impact of Asia’s IP expansion is impossible to predict. But its transformative potential is obvious as the commissioners of the patent offices of Japan, South Korea, China and, to a lesser extent, Singapore and Taiwan meet increasingly to define and coordinate their intellectual-property (IP) policies although a number of territorial disputes and political divides do often get in the way.

Each of these are examples are building the future knowledge assets to unlock innovation potential.

* America equally continues to work through a clearer innovation framework than I feel we in Europe seem not to have, or it seems incapable of delivering in our current fragmented view of innovation understanding. We want to spread innovation either too thinly or distort its value and meaning. We need a clear overarching innovation message.

* Take the reports from the “NII Innovate America Council on Competitiveness” or the White House view on “A Strategy for American Innovation” as debate documents or guidance indicators that offer an overarching view of how innovation needs to work and on what is needed to achieve and maintain a competitive position for America, written by both Business leaders and Government officials.

So what’s next?

The European Union has consistently failed to exploit its potential for innovation-based growth. Europe remains less inter-connected in critical areas due to political grandstanding and catering to vested domestic interests.

Does Europe lack the capacity for change as we constantly fail to convert much that seems promising, we are often not commercializing on all our hard work? Others pick up the baton and make the ‘risk’ investments off of the work and initial investments in Europe.

We constantly get caught up in the politics of the day, that seem to continue to divide and rule in old fashion ways, yet technology, science, and innovation are moving at a force and speed we are often guilty of not appreciating its impact or wealth-creating prospective. Innovation does not respect borders, it seemlessly moves across them but we need to forge the infrastructure to allow it to flow in more efficient and effective ways.

It is high time we did understand the real value of innovation, it ‘touches’ us all, we can all ‘feed off it’. We need to mobile around innovation and find the right ways to release our knowledge assets that are residing across Europe in a myriad of guises, waiting for the organizing forces and challenges to unite behind and solve. We have the latent capability clearly.

**Note : A really useful source of knowledge is this overview of the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 highlights some major developments in international and U.S. science and engineering (S&E) that explores many useful indicators in the race of Science, Research and Technology. It’s worth a read.

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