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Gwen Smith Ishmael, Sr. Vice President of Insights and Innovation at Decision Analyst in Arlington, TX, has led marketing and new product development activities in the CPG and technology industries since 1986. She also conceived and developed ground-breaking Web-based promotional vehicles, two of which are patent pending. Gwen holds an MBA in Marketing and is a featured speaker on insights and innovation around the world. Her writings have been featured in international text books, most recently in Managing 4 Ps of Marketing FMCG Sector, and Product Innovation: A Strategic Tool for Growth, by ICFAI Publications, 2006 and 2007, respectively.

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Renee Hopkins Callahan Renee Hopkins Callahan started IdeaFlow and serves as chief blog-wrangler. She is Director of Innovation Services at Decision Analyst in Arlington, Texas, is a former journalist who worked as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News and the Nashville Tennessean, and was managing editor of D, the Dallas city magazine. She has a master's degree in rhetoric and has also taught college-level English and informal logic.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


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September 29, 2003

Innovation Convergence Notes I: Idea Management, Customers Are Important - But IP Is Not

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Let’s just get this straight upfront: I am not a real-time conference-blogging demon! For that reason I’m just now getting around to blogging my notes from last week’s Innovation Convergence. But what I lack in speed I hope to make up for in value! I’ve got lots of notes and impressions to share.

First, my overall main impression was that Capital I-Innovation has arrived. Last year’s Convergence had just 70 attendees. This year there were 220, and new conferences on the subject are springing up like mushrooms after a thunderstorm, including this December’s Return on Innovation, at which IdeaFlow contributors Joyce Wycoff and John Wolpert will both be speakers.

Convergence’s very first keynote speaker, Mark Turrell of Imaginatik, referenced a famous (in innovation circles, anyway) Gary Hamel quote that seems to be on its way to becoming reality: “Innovation must become what quality was 20 years ago.”

Turrell sounded another common theme in his keynote, “Measuring the Financial Impact of Innovation: Calculating Your Innovation Gap.” That common theme was to make a differentiation between innovation and creativity, and pretty much every speaker I heard did this. Boiled down to the basics, the difference seemed to be that innovation is a process and creativity is not. Devotees of a process approach to creativity might beg to differ, but for the purposes of this conference, the distinction allowed most speakers a productive platform from which to dive into their take on the innovation process.

My notes on Turrell’s innovation/creativity definitions: Innovation’s a much more corporate thing than creativity, much more of a process. People who don’t get creativity are the ones who control the budgets, the ones you must convince to fund innovation.

Innovation is the process of handling new things; creativity is a one-off, invention is a one-off. Invention and creativity are part of the innovation process.

The main point of his talk was to expound on IOI, or the financial Impact of Innovation. He defined this as the proportion of current and future revenue and profit that is dependent on the company’s ability to innovate, and defined IOI components as revenue growth, revenue protection, productivity, and disruptive change (unplanned activities, or risk).

He then said the innovation gap is the difference between the target level of innovation (IOI) and the current innovation capacity, which is based on the ability of a firm to handle new things.

Idea management is important, because too many new ideas block the pipeline. You could expect him to say that, since Imaginatik is in the idea-management business, but this was another theme that was sounded by many speakers, including the other opening-day keynote, Dr. George Land of the Farsight Group.

First, Land's innovation/creativity definitions: At the beginning of his talk, “A Systems Process for Innovation,” he defined innovation as “organized creativity.”

Land’s Advanced Innovation Method is a process for bringing innovation to a corporation. Most important is the first part, determining what strategic innovation would be for the company. Seventy percent of time and budget should go to the first three steps, he says, which doesn’t even get you to the generating concepts stage. The important first three steps encompass alignment, an innovation audit, and a determination of an innovation strategy. A big part of this is determining internal and external customers’ “deep needs” – what does the customer really want or need in the future? Land says his company actually puts a large number of resources into training a client company’s customers in creativity to get them to articulate their needs. I of course found this fascinating in light of our own consumer-based approach, which has been discussed here recently.

And, connecting to another discussion we’ve been having here lately, this time on the Copyright Wars, Land dropped something of a bombshell early on in his speech by declaring that “product innovations are very easy to copy, and patents are an invitation to a lawsuit.” Sure enough, the first question in the following Q&A was about this assertion. Land explained further: Patents are very easy to go around. The issue is a flow of innovation, and what’s in the pipeline to develop after what you’ve got now has been copied. Always assume you’re going to get copied, and try to discover where you can innovate that it will be invisible. Developing intellectual assets – documented current and past knowledge that can lead to the creation of new knowledge through systematic innovation -- is better than developing IP, which he defined as “knowledge with legal ownership.”

According to Land, only 15% of corporate innovation comes from R&D departments, so that’s not the most important place to be innovative in a corporation. The companies most successful at innovation are stealthily innovating their process, distribution, or some other aspect that’s hard for competitors to grasp and copy.

But in any case, he echoed Turrell by saying, “don’t bust the dam of ideas until you’ve got somewhere for the water to go. Innovation efforts must be targeted or they create chaos. It’s a duty and an obligation NOT to collect too many ideas, to be ruthless with idea management.”

Finally, and this is another theme that was echoed over and over again: The CEO must drive innovation, and financial gap analysis is essential on the front end. You must arm yourself with the facts. Land also felt that a company should have an EVP or C-level innovation executive heading an innovation department that would integrate all functions – marketing, technology, business development, etc. And a company’s biggest barriers to innovation, in his view, are lack of leadership to drive innovation, and lack of strategic alignment regarding innovation.

And this was just the first part of the first day!!! More to come.

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