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

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February 28, 2007

Models for crowdsourcing -- now, FLIRT

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Sami Viitamaki emailed me this model for crowdsourcing. He calls it the FLIRT model. I like this -- it offers a useful way of viewing many crowdsourcing efforts.

I think what would be fascinating would be some kind of meta-view of crowdsourcing in general. In the main it's not new. And some of the "old" methods have their places, still. And some of the old methods have undergone and will continue to undergo change. For example, marketing research is an "old" method that is scoffed at by many today, but it has its uses even in the crowdsourced world.

And crowdsourcing brokers, as Sami quite rightly calls Innocentive, are serving yet another purpose. I don't think there's any one way that's best for companies to open themselves to customer communities, but discovering all the ways to do this and all the ways Web 2.0 is changing this landscape is immensely helpful.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Crowdsourcing | Customer Co-Creation | Customer Viewpoint | Marketing | Marketing Research | New Products | Open Innovation

February 3, 2005

Patents: The EU Restarts and IBM Releases

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

My apologies for a long, quiet January. The best I can say about January is that it's over!

Now that I'm resurfacing, the largest innovation-related issue in the news is patents. Yesterday the European Parliament voted to ask the European Commission to withdraw draft legislation that could have set the stage for allowing patents on pure software. (Currently patents on pure software are not allowed in European patent law, which is very different from U.S. patent law.)

Opponents of software patents have been lobbying members to restart the legal procedure on legislation so that safeguards could be inserted into the legislation that would guard against the patenting of pure software.

Meanwhile there continues to be a lot of coverage of IBM's surprise announcement on Jan. 10 that it would release 500 of its patents to the open-source community. IBM officials called the move "the company's first step in an effort to spur new ideas in the software community through collaboration and shared knowledge, and called on other intellectual property holders to join their 'patent commons.' "

While the move was applauded by many in the open source community – the direct beneficiaries of the move -- some speculated that one of IBM’s motives might be to help convince European legislators that open source and software patenting are compatible.

Still, IBM’s move has been seen by many as good for innovation in general, and open innovation in particular. Analysis in the Financial Times put it this way: “The idea is that money and freedom have struck up a whole new relationship in cyberspace. The old logic of patents was this: inventors needed them to protect themselves from the idea snatchers….But in cyberspace that is not always true, argues Lawrence Lessig...When it comes to software, where each inventor must build on what went before, sharing may well be more productive than hoarding. Prof Lessig points out that software patents are themselves a relatively new invention: until the 1980s, they were unavailable. He argues that they stifle, rather than foster, innovation. Software patents, Prof Lessig says, can create an "anti-commons": a world where "overlapping property rights make it impossible for anyone to develop a resource for fear of being held up by one of the rights-holders.”

Other perceived winners from IBM's move:

Web services: ZDNet's SOA -- Service Oriented Architecture Blog quotes AMR Research’s J. Paul Kirby: "IBM s promise makes it harder for Microsoft and Sun to monetize Web services transactions....This aligns closely with the position of the primary Web standards body, the W3C consortium, which has a preference for royalty-free use of technology. If the W3C finds favor with IBM s plan, it will be much harder for Sun and Microsoft to pick the other side."

Ross Mayfield’s Blog reported, “This is a significant move and part of a broader strategy to commoditize their inputs, pool risk, leverage a lead in services and change the game.”

Search: SearchViews called the move "innovation breeding innovation" and cited PatentCafe's launch of their OSS Search Engine, populated with the IBM patents "part of the new vision of search as a living, breathing storage mechanism for all the world's information."

Most coverage I read agreed that IBM’s move was bad for Microsoft:

Said Business Week, "The move is central to IBM's efforts to fend off Microsoft and its Windows is stepping up efforts to bolster the world of open-source software. IBM figures that doing so will give it a leg up in selling the software and services that work with the open-source programs it helped develop."

Linux World quoted Groklaw: "The Windows patent strategy is so over. And the next time Bill Gates tries to call this new kind of software development a kind of modern-day communism, as he did so offensively the other day, people will simply laugh in his face." The article also includes the speculation that "[IBM's move] might be the start of a 'viral' subversion of the patent system, in just the way that the GPL arguably is for copyright."

My take: Both events – the proposed redo of European patent legislation and IBM’s patent grant – can be seen as wins for innovation in general, and open innovation in particular. It seems that an either/or solution is probably not feasible or desirable. Some hybrid of a collaborative development environment and patent protection will be necessary. Even if you’re not into the nitty-gritty legal details of patent and copyright, it will be illustrative to watch as the ramifications of both these events unfold. They are setting the stage for what patents – and innovation – will look like in the future.

Comments (0) | Category: Open Innovation

May 5, 2004

Open Innovation and the Bridge project come to 'Fast Company'

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

IdeaFlow contributors Hank Chesbrough and John Wolpert are mentioned in the Fast Company article, The World Is Their R&D Lab. The article's a short take on some practitioners of open innovation (the article refers to them as "innovation middlemen"). Of course, Hank literally wrote the book on Open Innovation, and John just left IBM to head up an Australian pilot project on Open Innovation, the Bridge Innovation project.

And while on that subject, I want to welcome all the Australian subscribers to this blog who subscribed because the Bridge Innovation project will be an ongoing topic of conversation here. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this project, myself!

Comments (0) | Category: Open Innovation

April 6, 2004

The open innovation frontier

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Posted by Leslie Martinich

We’ve had a lot of postings recently on the topic of creativity, and I’d like to jump back to the topic of Open Innovation. Henry Chesbrough in his book Open Innovation talks about the link between the length of Development Cycles and the willingness (or lack thereof) of firms to adopt a more open approach to innovation.

I think it is illuminating to consider another axis: the length of Product Life Cycles. There are products with a short development cycle and a short life cycle, such as music videos. And there are products with a short development cycle and a long life cycle, such as Hula Hoops and Barbie dolls (this is the quadrant we’d like to be in!!!) And there are products with long development and long life cycles, such as rocket engines and pharmaceuticals. The tough quadrant to be in is that with long development cycles and short life cycles.

I’ve provided a simple illustration:
Open Innovation3.jpg

Consider the characteristics of the Long-Long quadrant. These firms need to build in processes and procedures that will encourage employees to hang around long enough to support their products, both through the development and through the support of the product’s life. So this is where we find pension plans, lots of training, expectations that employees will build their entire careers within the firm.

Contrast that to creating music videos or films. The team is made up of contractors thrown together for a quick product development. Most contributors are not even considered employees. So of course there is significantly more human interaction and idea sharing among product teams.

Clearly those on the lower left quadrant of the graph are more likely to use some forms of open innovation, while those on the upper right are most resistant.

I’ve drawn a jagged red line, which I believe is advancing upwards and to the right. That’s the open innovation frontier.

I expect that we’ll see a fairly rapid advance of that frontier, and I’ll be commenting on examples from the “long-long” industries as I find them.

Comments (5) | Category: Henry Chesbrough | Open Innovation

December 30, 2003

Open Innovation named top book of the year

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Posted by Leslie Martinich

Bob Edwards (NPR's Morning Edition) interviewed Randall Rothenberg, editor-in-chief of strategy+business this morning. Rothenberg said that he considered fellow blogger Henry Chesbrough's book Open Innovation to be the top book of the year in the field of innovation.

Congratulations, Hank!

I agree with Rothenberg's assessment, and thinking about some of the insights in Open Innovation prompts me to come up with a few insights of my own. I'll post them when I've constructed a coherent formulation!

Comments (0) | Category: Books | Open Innovation

December 17, 2003

Innovation Backlog?

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

Sorry for the recent quiet...a weeklong business trip with bad connectivity plus some difficult personal issues plus the holidays equals blog silence. Catch-up mode starts now!

First -- Here's an interesting story from Technology Review via Corante’s Venture Capital news section:

The problem in the tech sector is not a lack of innovation -- it is the inability to commercialize innovative new ideas, according to Kenan Sahin, a successful entrepreneur and alumnus of MIT and Bell Labs. In other words, "The flow of new innovations has remained strong and unabated over the past few years. It's the mechanisms for implementing them that have eroded." The article analyzes the so-called 'innovation backlog,' warning that "vast numbers of potentially important advances [are] being warehoused or shelved." As long as the "innovation-to-implementation flow is out of sync, the consequences for our work force, our wages, and our standard of living are serious. Unless we act decisively, it could be very difficult and costly to restart and resynchronize the flow."

My take -- sounds to me like this is a very strong argument for the kind of open innovation espoused by IdeaFlow bloggers Henry Chesbrough of Haas School of Business' Center for Technology Strategy and Management and John Wolpert of IBM.

My experiences this fall at two innovation conferences and one PDMA-sponsored new product development conference have indicated that not everyone involved in corporate innovation is signed on to this agenda, however. In general, I've found that the people who go to conferences organized around a theme of "innovation" seem more open to this idea than people who go to conferences organized around a theme of "new product development."

This could be due to differences in seniority -- more top-level managers at the innovation conferences and more product-level managers and R&D folks at the new product conferences. But that shouldn't matter, if you believe as I do that the push for innovation needs to be company-wide.

John Wolpert made a very good point at the recent Return On Innovation conference: There seem to be two camps regarding innovation -- those who view it as something of a religion, a state of mind, a way of thinking that can't really be measured very well, and those who view it as a process that can be predicted, managed, and measured in order to result in new business models, business processes and products that will increase growth. The truly successful innovators, I believe, will be those who can embrace both of these kinds of thinking about innovation.

Comments (0) | Category: Conferences | Open Innovation | Technology

October 28, 2003

John Wolpert, Live From Australia!

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

John sent this link to a videotape of the 10-minute speech he delivered on Oct. 15 to the Australian Parliament and 250 scientists at the Parliament Building in Canberra. When you follow the link, John is the "First Presenter." The "Final Speaker" link goes to shows a senior official commenting on the concepts from the speech. John's specific topic: how to accelerate corporate innovation, what we can do to build national economic growth by bridging barriers between firms, and how "intermediated innovation practices" might work.

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

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

October 22, 2003

Upcoming Conference: The Human Side of Innovation and Change

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Posted by Leslie Martinich

The IEEE 2003 International Engineering Management Conference will be held November 2-4 in Albany, NY. The IEEE-IEMC 2002 was one of the most useful conferences I attended last year, and I'm expecting another great conference this year.

Speakers include Dr. Rolf Smith speaking on "Diffferent Thinking for Diffferent Results." The conference organizing committee chair is Dr. Lois Peters, one of the authors of Radical Innovation: How Mature Companies Can Outsmart Upstarts, a book that both John Wolpert and I found to be extremely useful.

I'll be giving a workshop, "Unleashing Creativity: Creating an Innovation Focus for Engineering Teams." The workshop will include a discussion of an Innovation Framework as well as the use of InnoMediaries, citing work from both John Wolpert ("Breaking Out of the Innovation Box") and Henry Chesbrough (Open Innovation).

Talk about convergence!! Lots of our ideas will be coming together here!

Comments (0) | Category: Conferences | Creativity | Innovation, General | Open Innovation | Technology

October 8, 2003

Upcoming Conference: Return on Innovation

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

"Return on Innovation: Measuring and Managing Your Innovation Investment," will be held Dec. 3-5 in Coconut Grove, Fla. On the agenda:

  • Learn to achieve sustainable growth and increase your market share through proven innovations.
  • Link innovation to tangible results to prove the value of your investment to upper management who might not see innovation as a priority.
  • Learn the latest tools and techniques for measuring innovation from innovators at: IBM, Americredit Financial Services, Motorola Labs, Intel, Hewlett Packard and Georgia-Pacific.
  • Saving the best for last: John Wolpert and Joyce Wycoff of IdeaFlow will be speaking!

If you register by November 7th you can save $100. To register, go to or call 888.670.8200.

Please note: IdeaFlow is a media partner for this conference. That means we're involved with the conference, though no actual money is changing hands! If you register because you saw this, please let them know.

Comments (0) | Category: Conferences | Innovation, General | New Products | Open Innovation | ROI (Return on Innovation)

October 2, 2003

Innovation Convergence Notes IV: Trust Us

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Posted by Renee Hopkins Callahan

More on Convergence: I’m going to write now about a session I didn’t actually attend (there were tough choices to make!), but I heard great feedback on it from several conference attendees. Also, the subject was trust, a topic crucial to innovation, and one we’ve discussed here before.

Jim Mikula and Ruth Ann Hattori led this session, and most of my comments here are based on their white paper, "Collaboration, Trust and Innovative Change," which was part of the session handouts. If you are concerned about the need for setting up a relationship of trust for a collaborative innovation venture, it’s well worth reading.

Basically, Mikula and Hattori spell out these four attributes of trust:

  • Authenticity
  • History of fulfillment
  • Ability to fulfill
  • Commitment to the relationship

Individuals or companies are said to be “highly invested” if all four attributes of trust are present in their relationship. And, “this highly invested state is one necessary precondition for collaborative innovation.” Of course, whether or not these trust attributes are present in the relationship, or could be developed, is a matter of opinion. Mikula and Hattori are simply offering the suggestion that this opinion should be based on a careful assessment rather than gut instinct, and their framework offers a structure with which to make this assessment.

Another good point regarding trust assessments: they are domain-specific. Their example: You may trust your organization’s controller with finances but you may not trust him or her to create an outstanding training class.

Comments (0) | Category: Collaborative Creativity | Conferences | Innovation, General | Open Innovation

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