Innovation Techniques #KMWorld

KMWorld 2013Speaker:  Jeffrey Phillips, VP & Lead Consultant, Ovo Innovation and Author, Relentless Innovation: What Works, What Doesn’t — And What That Means for Your Business. Ovo focuses on helping clients develop innovation capabilities within their organizations. They help organizations “Innovate on Purpose” (TM).

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2013 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Description: From brainstorming to other idea-generation tools to tips for changing internal enterprise culture (the biggest barrier to innovation), this session is filled with insights and ideas for ramping up innovation in any organization. Innovation does require determination and commitment, working to discover new needs, and creating change in a safe, comfortable environment. Our innovation expert shares lots of techniques for you to try in your organization.


  • Learning to think “Outside the Box”: This presentation explains why “thinking outside the box” is challenging and how to create the conditions that make it more possible.
  • Innovation on Purpose (TM): Innovation is directed by corporate strategy and enabled by corporate culture. Strategy identifies where innovation is needed. Corporate culture can shut innovation down or it can make innovation possible. His firm, Ovo Innovation, focuses on:
    • Trend spotting and scenario planning
    • Gathering customer insights — “Outside-INnovation” which allows you to understand client needs, perhaps even before the client can articulate those needs.
    • Idea Generation — this needs to be more than opinion. It should be grounded in facts, in evidence, in client and corporate needs. This is more than merely brainstorming.
    • Idea Evaluation and Development — in a start-up, you have one big idea and focus on it exclusively. In a corporation, you develop a portfolio of ideas. The challenge is to balance the risk and opportunity within that portfolio.
  • What is “The Box”?
    • The “box” is comprised of the mental model and perspective, the traditional ways of thinking, and implied constraints that cause us to conceive of and develop predictable responses. Within the organization, people tend to think the same way either because of the constraints that are imposed upon them (or that they believe are imposed on them).
    • What creates or sustains the box?
      • corporate culture
      • reward structures
      • organizational strategy — are we fast followers (who don’t take risks) or cutting edge innovators?
      • organizational history
      • risk tolerance
      • communication — How do we communicate? What do we celebrate? What do we tell people is important?
  • Why leaving the box is difficult
    • It provides structure (and comfort)
    • It takes a lot of energy to leave. Innovation is fundamentally a change management issue, and change takes an energy. A little bit of innovation/change requires some energy. A lot of innovation/change requires a lot of energy to overcome enertia.
    • Leaving the box means we have to work in a new reality that we don’t know and have not mastered. This puts us in an uncomfortable and, perhaps, precarious position.
  • What it takes to leave the box
    • See the Five Factors of Innovation below.
  • Defining and working in a new box
    • First, define the new “box”: What’s the scope of the project? What are the constraints? Once you have done this, create a charter for the project and get then obtain sign-off from your senior sponsors.
    • Preparation is key: define an innovation process or workflow that works for your team. You’ll probably need to develop some new techniques to handle the task.
    • Time and Focus: Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Most innovation team members have far few hours of training and are given few hours to deliver innovation. Often their innovation responsibilities are tacked on t0 their regular day job. Without time and focus, how can they begin to understand what it means to work in a new box?
  • Preparing to return to the old box
    • Ideas change people — once they have experienced something new, can they really be happy with the old?
    • “Ideas will change your organization, or your organization will change the ideas.”
    • How will new ideas be communicated? How will those ideas be received by the people who need to implement the innovation?
    • If the organization cannot adopt the new ideas, consider licensing them to an external party. This is an excellent way of realizing value from an idea you are not willing or able to implement internally.
  • Five Factors for Innovation
    • Discomfort: create discomfort with the status quo — create a strategic purpose (a “burning platform”) that is urgent enough that it will get people to move? It shouldn’t be so urgent that something needs to be done today. It should be proactive rather than reactive.
    • Energy: generate enough energy to create movement
    • Methodology: provide tools, methods and processes — there are many tools and methods of innovation, and many of them work well. The key is to involve the best people.
      • They need to be volunteers, comfortable with the risk and sense of ambiguity that is inherent in innovation.
      • They should not be people who are most wedded to existing tools and processes. (Often their success makes them obvious picks for the team. They should not be included in the team. The nature of their past success will impede innovation.)
      • They need training to “think differently.”
      • They need practice.
    • Time: plan time for innovation — don’t create distractions and divided loyalties. Remember the 10,000 hours.
  • Guidance is critical
    • too little guidance makes innovation difficult — the team will spin endlessly because there is no credible limit to what is possible.
    • too much guidance narrows the scope and makes innovation difficult
    • ideally, provide 3-4 constraints that create the bounds within which innovation must occur. This will prevent the team from attempting to boil the ocean.
  • Senior Sponsorship: When you have senior sponsorship it helps define the burning platform and it provides the necessary cover and energy for innovation.
  • Rewards:
    • Innovators tend to be instrinsically motivated. They care more about seeing their ideas implemented than they are in monetary rewards.
  • Things to Avoid:
    • Don’t take shortcuts with unfamiliar tools or in a new environment
    • Relying primarily on past experience
    • Don’t let yourself settle for incremental innovation.

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