About this Author
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.

Founding Author

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.


Category Archives

November 16, 2005

Democrats call for 'Innovation agenda'

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Many news organizations have reported Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi's Tuesday call for a revived "innovation agenda." The article I saw that seemed most complete and balanced was in According to this article, the Democratic plan would include creating financial aid programs that would among other things, add 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians and engineers to the U.S. workforce in the next four years. The plans also calls for doubling the grants issued by the National Science Foundation and bringing affordable access to broadband Internet to all U.S. residents within five years.

Said Pelosi in the article, "' The innovation agenda will be the Democrats’ top priority,' although she avoided questions about what issues will now take a lower priority and how Congress will pay for the new programs. Democrats don’t want Congress to run up the U.S. government’s budget deficit, she said, and the Democratic agenda calls for new programs to be funded on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis."

Of course, Republicans say that they want pretty much the same things. President Bush has already called for universal broadband by 2007. And according to the article, "In March, Senate Republicans called for patent reform, a permanent R&D (research and development) tax credit, and patent reform in a 40-item list of technology-related goals. In May, House Republicans pushed for reform of telecommunications regulations, legislation to combat spyware, and new ways to curb digital piracy."

I have no expertise in policy, and would love to read some commentary from someone who is who could make recommendations on how to attain these goals. It's great that the Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on what's needed for the U.S. to regain or keep (depending on your point of view) its leadership in the technology industry. It's also great that Republicans and Democrats reportedly are both talking to technology and busienss executives in an effort to understand what's needed. But it's very unfortunate that the parties disagree about what laws and policies are needed to make this innovation agenda happen. That in and of itself tells me that the road ahead is going to be slow going, especially since next year is an election year.

Comments (4) | Category: Law & Policy

June 25, 2005

US losing the broadband innovation race

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Given the troubles that I've had connecting while at this conference, it's ironic that, once I did get connected this morning (thanks to A Fine Grind at Marshall and Cleveland in St. Paul), I read an NYT article that pointed to this article in Foreign Affairs.

Author Thomas Bleha says that since the beginning of the Bush administration, the U.S. has fallen far behind Japan and other Asian states in deploying broadband -- "In the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband Internet usage." According to Bleha, this means the U.S. is losing its place as a leader in Internet innovation. Says he: "The [Asian] countries, rather than the United States, will benefit from the enhanced productivity, economic growth, and new jobs that high-speed broadband will bring."

You could also argue its place as a leader of innovation, period. This may take a little longer to play out, but if you buy the idea that broadband Internet is the track on which the innovation train now runs, it's inevitable.

Bleha, again -- "Asians will have the first crack at developing the new commercial applications, products, services, and content of the high-speed-broadband era. Although many large U.S. firms, such as Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft, are closely following developments overseas and are unlikely to be left behind, the United States' medium-sized and smaller firms, which tend to foster the most innovation, may well be."

Comments (0) | Category: Law & Policy

October 6, 2004

More on Innovation and the Presidential Candidates

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Earlier this week I quoted from a Business Week article that gave President Bush and Senator Kerry about even marks for supporting innovation, though it gave the edge to Bush. A couple of readers commented that such Bush policies on restricting the travel of academics coming to the U.S. from abroad and limiting stem-cell research certainly don’t promote innovation.

When I asked if anyone knew where I might find information on Bush and Kerry’s innovation-related policies, our fearless Corante leader Hylton took pity on me and sent me a link to an MIT Technology blog post , which in turn pointed to two sources for Bush and Kerry’s own words on science and innovation, one in Science magazine and one in Nature magazine.

Hylton also sent a link to a Forrester Research paper, Bush Or Kerry For An American Innovation Century? The Next President Must Ensure US Firms' Success In Global Innovation Networks, which can be downloaded free if you register.

The quick summary: Both Bush and Kerry offer “shortsighted policies that undermine…U.S. ability to compete in global Innovation Networks.”

The article is part of a series Forrester has been doing on innovation networks, which I’ve been following because of the implications for open innovation. Forrester did not invent the idea of innovation networks, though they certainly seem to be making a claim to it here. I’ll post more on innovation networks next week, but right now I want to focus on what this article says about the Presidential candidates and innovation.

According to Forrester, here’s how both candidates undermine innovation:

Religious and socially motivated policies: Bush-led restrictions on biomedical inventions will lead to an exodus of researchers from top US institutions like MIT and Harvard, turning the US into a second-class power in medical science, while Kerry's anti-offshore stance would force firms like GE and IBM to close their R&D labs in Bangalore and Shanghai, crippling their ability to invent products and services for the 2.4 billion Indian and Chinese consumers.

Declining support for “transformer” skills: Both candidates place too much emphasis on invention and not on the ability to transform inventions into innovations.

Tax incentives that fail to nurture financing of innovation: Bush proposes to make the R&D tax credit for US firms permanent but doesn't include the foreign investors who fund 15% of US R&D, while Kerry’s plan to eliminate tax on capital gains from five-year investments in startup inventors and transformers fails to take note of the fact that invention-to-innovation cycles are only two to three years, not five years.

Low funds and caution will hobble Innovation Network brokers: The Bush administration has already cut by 63% the funds for The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which brokers US manufacturers' access to high-tech inventions and IT-enabled transformation processes, while Kerry has promised to cancel U.S. trade agreements after a 120-day review, which will stall the major strides made over the course of many years broker groundbreaking scientific and technology alliances between U.S. firms and the world's largest innovation powerhouses.

This is not a particularly cheery assessment. If you look at this article carefully, it seems that neither candidate is seeing or defining innovation in the way that those of us who’ve been thinking, reading, writing and talking about it the last couple of years are. If they don’t know what the world of innovation even looks like these days, it’s no wonder that they both exhibit a lack of vision.

I wonder who is advising Bush and Kerry on these issues. Certainly not our government’s own National Innovation Initiative, whose head, IBM’s Sam Palmisano, is quoted in the Forrester paper: "The potential for innovation is only magnified by the emerging knowledge-based global economy [in which] innovative ideas can move around the world with the click of a mouse."

Read that, and then read the candidates' words in the Science and Nature Q&As, and it doesn’t even sound like everyone’s speaking the same language.

Comments (0) | Category: Law & Policy

October 4, 2004

Who Will Be The 'Innovation President'?

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Probably to help publicize its Oct. 11 Innovation Economy special issue (see IdeaFlow post below), the Business Week Oct. 4 issue features commentary on whether Bush or Kerry would be a better President at fostering innovation. Author Bruce Nussbaum says both candidates "love innovation," but puts Bush slightly ahead, despite his lack of support for stem-cell research funding.

The reason seems to be that Bush is more of a known quantity, believes in lowering taxes, and has shown some willingness to spend on such things as the National Insitute of Health. The deficit is bad for innovation, but as Nussbaum notes,

"Kerry doesn't have any realistic plans to cut the budget deficit, either. He would keep the deep Bush income-tax cuts and reductions on capital gains and dividends, except for taxpayers making $200,000 or more.

The problem is that it's precisely those people who make that kind of money who do most of the saving and investing in the country. And it's entrepreneurs who often wind up paying income taxes at the highest rates. That's simply a fact of financial life."

How you call this one depends a lot on what you think innovation is, and what you think nurtures it, nationally and globally. My take is that whoever will focus not on the jobs already lost to outsourcing, but on education, training and R&D, is probably the better choice, innovation-wise. Which candidate that is depends a lot on whether you believe Kerry's promises and whether you like what Bush has already done in this regard. It's very easy to promise these kinds of things and hard to deliver. Too bad there's not going to be a debate focused on innovation!

Comments (6) | Category: Law & Policy

May 13, 2004

Innovation Policy for 'Exuberant Growth'

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

BusinessWeek posted a Q&A with their chief economist Michael Mandel, who has just released Rational Exuberance: Silencing The Enemies of Growth And Why The Future Is Better Than You Think (excerpt here).

Mandel’s thesis: There’s a good chance we’ll get another tech-driven boom in the U.S., and that’s a good thing, even though such tech booms are turbulent for employees and even though technology in general makes economists uncomfortable. In his book (which I have not read) he talks about the relationship between growth, technology, financial markets, and politics. He says that politicians pay very little attention to technology and that neither Kerry nor Bush has a well-developed innovation policy. Having seen both Kerry’s and Bush’s innovation policy (well, technology policy) statements, I’m inclined to agree there.

Mandel defines “exuberant growth” as growth that’s driven by technological change as opposed to growth by capital accumulation alone. His vision of what a “real growth policy” would look like:

-- Better funding for R&D
-- Better funding for education of scientists and engineers
-- A general firming up of the innovation infrastructure
-- Maintenance of political support for technological change (which he defines as “helping people understand that when technological change comes, it’ll be fair, transparent, and that they’ll have some measure of security.”)

That last item would seem to be a very touchy thing. Is the government supposed to help people understand this – whether it turns out to be true or not – or is the government supposed to make this happen? It seems impossible for any government to be able to get far enough in front of a major technological change to make sure that there are policies in place for fairness and security. What constitutes fairness and security in terms of any particular technology probably won’t be known until after a significant mass of people adopt the technology.

This reminds me of the difficulties of being able to predict disruptive innovation. If an innovation is truly disruptive, it’s extremely difficult to predict a market for it. It will create its own market. If a disruptive technology, one big enough to fuel “exuberant growth,” comes along, it’s probably not going to be very predictable either. It won’t be “fair, transparent, and secure.” It’ll have to be put out there in all its wildness until it makes its place in our market-driven economy.

Comments (0) | Category: Law & Policy

February 9, 2004

Which came first, the innovative companies or the diverse culture?

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

I posted recently on Florida's assertion that "policies that operate to the interests of the creative class" are in the economic interests of the rest of the nation as well. Here's an article by Stepen Malanga that calls into question Florida's entire economic thesis that in order to attract highly innovative, high-growth businesses and the "creative class" that typically staffs such businesses, cities must put their emphasis -- and tax dollars -- into creating the kind of atmosphere in which the creative class wants to live, which according to Florida includes a vibrant live-music scene, recreational amenities, and a social climate that celebrates diversity.

Malanga essentially says Florida is the emperor with no clothes: His most creative-class-friendly cities in fact underperform the American economy and actually don't do a very good job of attracting or keeping residents, unless you only count the Internet boom years.

The main issue here is a classic chicken or egg argument -- which came first, the creative economy companies and workers, or the diverse, socially liberal, rock-and-roll atmosphere? Says Malanga:

Not only does [Florida] believe that marginal attractions like an idiosyncratic arts scene can build economic power, but he thinks that government officials and policymakers like himself can figure out how to produce those things artificially. He doesn’t seem to recognize that the cultural attributes of the cities he most admires [like San Francisco and Austin] are not a product of government planning but have been a spontaneous development, financed by private-sector wealth.

Case in point: Having followed Austin politics and culture for some years, I know that the now-city-council-approved slogan "Keep Austin Weird" wasn't something the city council started -- it was a campaign launched by a few business leaders in South Austin in an effort to keep chain retail from driving out more offbeat local businesses. In Austin, the "offbeat culture" came first. It only makes sense that the city would co-opt "Keep Austin Weird" (much to the dismay of the people who actually started it) as they cast about for ways to stem the post-crash bleeding. That was an effort to identify the things that seemed to have worked for Austin and build on those things.

Does this mean that a "Keep Omaha Weird" campaign would bring lots of innovative, high-tech businesses to Omaha? According to Malanga, Omaha would have had to have been wierd in the first place for that to work. Or it would have to become wierd spontaneously and not by city coucil mandate (and government funding).

Comments (0) | Category: Innovation, General | Law & Policy

January 27, 2004

The politics of the creative class

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Our brother Corante blogger Jonathan Peterson sent me a link a couple of weeks ago that I’m just now getting to – the thought-provoking piece “Creative Class War” by Richard Florida. The article is pegged to the current Presidential election we’re _______ (depending on how you feel about politics, fill in the blank with the appropriate verb phrase: slogging through, dealing with, struggling with, being entertained by, following passionately….!)

There’s a lot of very interesting stuff going on in this article. But because it’s framed in terms of the current campaign it’s impossible for me to ignore the politics, so I’ll point my comments in that direction. I actually think that Florida bashes the GOP a little too much here and doesn’t place enough responsibility on the Democrats. If in fact the Clinton years were the political and power zenith for the creative class, then it was the Democrats’ to lose. And they did. It's irresponsible to whine about election-stealing – it shouldn’t have been that close in the first place. Nor do the Democrats have any really good plan for getting the power back. As Florida so aptly points out, “The challenge for Democrats, if they want to win, is to find ways of reaching out to the rest of the country, to convince at least some of its many regions that policies which operate to the interests of the creative class are in their interests as well.”

I would add that this “reaching out” can’t be palliative, patronizing or pandering, which looks to me like what most of the Democrats are doing. This is as bad as “sneering at the elites,” which Florida accuses the GOP of doing (an accurate accusation, to my mind). If Democrats are truly the party of the creative class, then where are the innovators in the current slate of candidates?! And if the Democrats are only the best choice for the creative class because they’re not the GOP, then where’s the innovative third-party alternative?!

Comments (3) | Category: Law & Policy

October 25, 2003

Fear and Resistance, Again

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Posted by Leslie Martinich

The Wall Street Journal carried an article on their front page today about the Department of Justice’s examination of the National Association of Realtors’ Internet policies. My friend Russell Capper’s company, eRealty, as well as other Internet-based real estate companies are challenging the way real estate business is done.

Why is this interesting? Not just because Russell is a friend of mine! It is interesting because it exhibits classic symptoms that almost all innovations display, primarily resistance and fear. Of course realtors do not want to see their business move to an electronic model, but it is only a matter of time before much of the real estate business is done through the Internet.

The most analogous industry is airline ticket sales. Travel agents didn’t want to see their business move to the Internet either. But end users want to do their own searching, identifying the flights they want to purchase. Some of them still want the services of a travel agent.

The move of the real estate business to the Internet is simply slower because users trade real estate far less frequently than they purchase airline tickets. But ultimately it is customer demand that will force this industry to move more completely to the Internet.

The activity of the Department of Justice points out another classic issue for innovations. A society’s flexibility enhances its ability to prosper from innovations. That is why countries with common law systems are more prosperous than countries with civil law systems. Attempts to make rules arbitrarily constraining innovations is not a good thing for prosperity.

Comments (0) | Category: Commercialization | Innovation, General | Law & Policy | Open Innovation | Technology

October 23, 2003

Say 'G'day' To Open Innovation

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Well, now we know why we haven't heard much from John Wolpert lately. He's been in Australia, busily spreading the Open Innovation gospel. He surfaced today long enough to email us a link to an interview he did with the ABC radio network (the Australian equivalent of NPR). While in Australia, John also addressed the Australian Parliament and the Innovation Exchange about Open Innovation. When he gets back we'll twist his arm to get him to post some of his impressions!

Comments (0) | Category: Bridge Project | Commercialization | Innovation, General | Law & Policy | Open Innovation | Technology

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.

Comments (0) | Category: Collaborative Creativity | Commercialization | Conferences | Corporate Climate | Creativity | Disruptive Innovation | Innovation, General | Law & Policy | Marketing | Marketing Research | New Products | Open Innovation | Patents | ROI (Return on Innovation) | Technology