Innovation is a highly interactive, multidisciplinary process which increasingly involves cooperation and partnerships between a growing and diverse network of individuals and organizations. We find increasingly more organisations innovate through partnerships and collaborations.

Collaboration is defined as the process where two or more people or organizations work together towards achieving mutually beneficial goals and objectives. Collaboration extends over a range of activities, including the provision and transfer of skills, sharing of information, conducting research and product development, accessing channels to market and creating new market opportunities.

The aim of collaboration is the co-creation of value through sharing, creating new insights, and leveraging existing resources. The diagram below outlines a continuum of collaboration intensity from traditional business approaches of engaging customers and suppliers, to a shared destiny of creating new competitive space.

Collaboration in Australian firms has been comparatively low as reflected in the 2010 OECD Working Party of National Experts in Science and Technology Innovation (NESTI) project data outlined in the graphic below. The graph shows the percentage of innovative firms with national and international collaboration on innovation during the period 2004–06.

Therefore, what could be the causes of the low percentage of collaboration. A number of issues and barriers can occur in pursuing potential collaborations, including:

  • Lack of professionalism on both sides of the collaboration, including poor project and intellectual property management
  • Diverging interests and cultures, including impulsive relationships
  • Problems over speed of negotiation, ownership of results and intellectual property, including exclusivity
  • Compensation for indirect costs and background knowledge
  • Equitable returns in the event of successful commercialisation

From a government policy perspective, a lack of incentivisation and program support for collaboration could also be a factor of low level collaboration in certain countries.

The concept of open innovation is worth re-visiting as collaboration plays a significant role. Open innovation implies that an organization has the willingness and desire to source and utilize external knowledge, ideas, intellectual assets and technologies, in addition to its internal capabilities, to identify solutions to problems, capitalize on opportunities, develop new technologies, create new products and services, improve processes, or design new organizational systems and business models. A great example of an organization practicing open innovation is Proctor & Gamble, where many of its products have been developed with external partners providing research, development and cross-licensing of intellectual property.

A number of benefits can be gained by firms and organizations through collaboration and open innovation:

  1. Reduced costs due to utilising others people’s experience, skills & equipment and sharing costs of research
  2. Higher quality research and development
  3. Accessing new and different skills, networks, contacts and distribution infrastructure
  4. Risk mitigation – collaboration can have reduced risk as it is shared
  5. Increased speed to market

How can we better collaborate to drive innovation?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Implementing Ideas the 3M Way

May 30th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (2 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the tacit knowledge of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.

The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations and new opportunities for the compsny. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may have not had the opportunity and encouragement to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.

In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially when their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to back the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a group approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective.

A key success factor to successful implementation and exploitation of ideas within an organization is the availability of funding to support projects based on new ideas. Establishing a central organizational fund would relieve departments and business units from the responsibility to risk their existing operational budgets on new ideas. Such a fund would remove any financial obstacle to pursue ideas as the funding comes from a non-departmental budget. Subsequently the investment criteria for this fund would be different to the normal investment or product development criteria as the risk threshold associated with the investigation and development of new ideas would be elevated. 3M for example have provided up to US$50,000 in the form of ‘Genesis Grants’ which are internal venture capital funding for developing prototypes and market testing of new ideas and opportunities.

Generally, financial managers in many organizations would find it difficult to fathom the establishment of an internal investment fund to be used solely for the investigation and evaluation of new ideas.  Their first request would be for someone to justify the return on investment for such a fund, however, it is generally accepted that playing with the notion of exploiting new ideas is a risky business. The core management philosophy of 3M established in the company’s infancy by its then General Manager William McKnight has overcome any challenge to justify a return on investment. William McKnight developed the following founding principles at 3M back in 1914 which continue to influence the culture of 3M today: 

  1. Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it might sound at first.
  2. Encourage; don’t nitpick. Let people run with an idea.
  3. Hire good people and leave them alone.
  4. If you put fences around people you get sheep. Give people the room they need.
  5. Encourage experimental doodling.
  6. Give it a try – and quick!

McKnight’s approach was to encourage individual initiative that would produce the ‘raw material’ for new innovations. He also understood that along the way mistakes would be made, especially when giving employees the freedom and encouragement to act on their own initiative, however the organization as a whole would be continually learning.

A culture conducive to the generation, evaluation and exploitation of ideas is therefore a key success factor to driving innovation. Take a look at 3M today with over US$27 billion in revenue and a large number of innovative products servicing a wide range of industry sectors. For further information refer to the 3M website.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Daniel Pink quoted in one of his presentations, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“. Since we are living in a ‘conceptual world’ through the impact of the digital economy we need to use both our analytical left brain but also our creative right brain. However, many of us struggle to develop our creative right brains because our educational system focuses on analysis, critical thinking, and facts and figures.

A key driver of business growth and development is the ability to nurture the intellectual capital in organizations (that is, the employees, their tacit knowledge, skills and experience). One critical success factor is to enhance creativity in people and subsequently in the organization by creating a “Hothouse Effect”. Dr Barton Kunstler author of the The Hothouse Effect describes a number of ways to intensify creativity in your organization using secrets from history’s most creative communities. The book describes common characteristics of history’s “Creative Hothouses”, including ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian salons (early 1900’s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933).

Following is a summary of the ‘Four Dimensions of the Hothouse Effect’. Learnings, observations, behaviours and processes from the creative hothouses  are outlined that can be applied to the modern organization to stimulate new thinking, creativity, innovation and breakthrough ideas.

I. Values/Mission.

  1. Values drive organizational goals, strategies and operations and should be ‘lived’ by employees throughout the work environment both explicitly and implicitly.
  2. The organization should support the creative expression of individuals and utilize their knowledge to solve problems and capitalize opportunities.
  3. Employees are driven by the vital impact and meaning they create for other individuals, organizations and society.
  4. Highly creative groups challenge assumptions and conduct in-depth research to gain a better understanding of the situation or problem.
  5. The organization’s mission aspires to universal application in the market.

II. Ideas/Exchange.

  1. The organization provides recognition and respect for thinkers and the products of thought.
  2. Create a system to facilitate the circulation and flow of ideas throughout the organization.
  3. Intellectual exchange inputs into the evolution of organizational culture.
  4. Employees tap into the expertise across disciplines and teams, and utilize other fields of knowledge.
  5. Mentoring relationships are cultivated throughout the organization.
  6. Hubs of creativity are encouraged which proliferate throughout the organization.
  7. The organization continually analyzes the impact of core technologies on all aspects of operations, development and strategy.

III. Perception/Learning

  1. The organization encourages and actively promotes education for all employees.
  2. Employees have access to tools and problem-solving methodologies to perform their work and deliver services to clients.
  3. Perception-based methods are implemented into the employees’ daily work lives.
  4. Creativity training is provided to employees to better understand the creative process, consisting of immersion, incubation and illumination.
  5. The organization and its employees maintain an open mind to external opportunities, networks and collaborations.
  6. Employees are encouraged to enhance their mental operations through various activities, including ‘thinking about thinking‘ and “design thinking’.

IV. Social/Play

  1. The organization has a strong business model that provides the resources and structure to encourage and support creative activity.
  2. The organization continues to develop its future leaders.
  3. Crises draw employees together and release hidden reserves of energy and creative inspiration.
  4. Playing with ideas, information and material encourages experimentation and removes the fear of failure.
  5. Social activities are planned imaginatively and promote social interaction and rapport.

The knowledge and practical approaches are available for any organization seeking a competitive advantage in this interconnected global arena. The challenge lies in the commitment and implementation strategy.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Crowdsourcing refers to the outsourcing of tasks and activities, traditionally performed internally by an employee or an external contractor, to a large group of people (a crowd), through an open innovation approach or an open call.

In their book Wikinomics Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams discuss how mass collaboration can impact big changes in business. They also present a number of case studies of successful outsourcing and collaboration, including Goldcorp and Proctor & Gamble. In the case of Goldcorp, a Canadian gold mining company, after internal reports and advice from technical staff indicated that the gold mine had run out of gold, the CEO placed all the geological studies, surveys and reports related to the gold mine into the public domain via the Internet and offered a sum of money to whoever could come up with new information or leads for new gold deposits. The CEO’s strategy was successful. New computer modeling technology located in another small organization was able to predict the location of new gold deposits using the existing geological survey data.

By utilizing an open call to an undefined group of people (generally through the Internet), the call brings together people who are in the best position to be able to solve complex problems, provide new ideas and develop new opportunities.

Crowdsourcing has a number of advantages, however, it can also result in intellectual property (IP) issues, including ownership issues and confidentiality of IP. An appropriate governance process is required to ensure the disadvantages of crowdsourcing are minimized. Some of the advantages of using a crowdsourcing approach can include:

  • Reducing transaction costs of organisations
  • Finding new business opportunities
  • Building appropriate teams by finding the right  external people
  • Re-using previous work
  • Building user defined products and services
  • Solving difficult and complex problems

A number of online sites are available that specialise in bringing together different parties or groups to work on a particular project or solve a specific problem. Alternatively an organisation can also ask a question through one of its online networks such as facebook or LinkedIn. A selection of crowdsourcing sites of interest are outlined below:

  • ChaordixBusiness innovation – Engaging crowds through the web to solve your business problem
  • kluster – Brainstorming / feedback – Harness the power of your own hand-picked crowd to brainstorm ideas
  • namethisBrand names – A 48 hour competition site to find a suitable brand name for your venture
  • innocentive –  Problem solving – Brings together seekers who have a problem together with solvers from around the world who may be able to help
  • Rent A Coder – Software development – International marketplace to locate software coders
  • Global Ideas Bank – Social innovation – A site which collects social inventions that can change the world, which are rated by online voters.

One specific type of crowdsourcing strategy is crowdfunding which is also referred to as crowdlending. Crowdfunding is the collective cooperation,  attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. For example, crowdfunding has been used to fund open source live chat software, online services, music, independent films, charity and social enterprises.

A number of online crowdfunding and crowdlending websites are available that can be used to raise funds for specific projects or for charitable work. A number of websites are described below:

An entrepreneur seeking seed funding for a new venture, who has not been successful sourcing funds through either government funding programs or through traditional angel investors or venture capitalists, could use crowdfunding from online communities to solicit pledges of small amounts of money from individuals who typically would not be professional financiers. The amounts pledged are usually so small people tend to support a venture that has the right value proposition for them. Confirming a threshold value also ensures that all pledges will not be used unless a threshold target amount is reached.

Crowdfunding, therefore, has the potential to help launch simple ideas through minimal investment, resulting in faster outcomes and the development of new products or services, particularly for social enterprises.

To your success!

Dr John Kapeleris

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In my previous company Panbio Ltd, one of the key success factors of the company was embedding innovation across the whole organisation and not limited to the R&D Department alone. One of the initiatives that I implemented to drive innovation in the organisation was the establishment of a Creativity Club. The main objective of the creativity club was to stimulate creative thinking in individuals and encourage the use of creative thinking tools to come up with new ideas, and to solve problems in the organisation and for our customers.

The original objectives that we brainstormed at our first creativity club at Panbio are outlined below:

The format and structure of the creativity club included the following:

  1. The creativity club was open to all employees of the organisation. Everyone was invited to deliver presentations, and to share their knowledge and experiences.
  2. The creativity club was held either at lunchtime or before work (lunch and breakfast were provided which was a great attraction for employees).
  3. The agenda of each meeting consisted of the following:
    1. Ice-breaker – each participant would be asked to describe a creative experience or reading since the last meeting (those participants that could not describe a creative experience would be asked to tell a joke – right brain thinking)
    2. Formal presentation – a theme was chosen as a focus of each creativity club including: Introduction to Creative Thinking, Serendipity vs Synchronicity, Idea Management, Creativity Tools, Imagination, Innovation case studies (3M, Dupont, Lotus Corporation, Ideo etc), Creative Problem Solving, Intuition, Chaos Theory, etc
    3. Informal discussion – this session included open discussion about the specific topic presented and the practical application of the learnings from the presentation
    4. Action planning – the creativity club concluded with the recording of action plans that each participant could take back to their department or functional area and implement
  4. The creativity club was modelled on the Dupont OZ Creative Thinking Network and the Parisian Salons (creative communities) of the 1920’s. The creativity club included a number of games and puzzles to stimulate the creative juices of participants. It also provided a fun environment conducive to the sharing of knowledge and ideas that could be further developed or implemented. A database was set up within the Knowledge Management system of the organisation to capture and record the presentations, knowledge, ideas, learnings, discussions and action plans arising from the creativity club.

The creativity club at Panbio also spawned the development of Creative Problem Solving Hit Teams. These teams consisted of cross-functional team members that would work on solving problems both inside and outside the organisation. When an internal functional area or an external customer could not solve a particular problem then a Creative Problem Solving Hit Team was deployed. The cross-functional nature of the team allowed a wider range of skill-sets to be incorporated in the team, providing a diverse perspective when investigating each problem. The team included people directly involved with the problem but also people who had never been exposed to the problem. Team members were also equipped with a variety of creative problem solving tools and resources. These teams became so effective that we started to provide this service beyond our existing clients and domain areas of expertise.

Enjoy!

Dr John Kapeleris

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The interaction with people throughout your life can influence and determine your future path. My parents and grandparents were a strong influence in my younger years, guiding me and providing me with direction and knowledge. Many of my values and beliefs originated from my parents and grandparents, predominantly through story-telling in the evening and during bed-time. My parents and grandparents were my mentors in my early life.

Throughout my education and career I would source new mentors who would continue to influence me and guide me through my learning and development. One of my career mentors was Dr David Wyatt who was also the Chief Executive of a company where I worked as a senior manager. He was a person who could inspire you to seek new ideas, and continually learn and develop. He would motivate you in your work and make you feel positive and energised. David was also a wealth of knowledge and creative inspiration. He provided me with frequent articles of useful information that would challenge my thinking and provide me with new knowledge. David would also challenge me to think beyond the immediate problem or opportunity. When I was working for David I just couldn’t wait to get to work on Monday morning so that I could experience something new, exciting and motivating. My personal development at that time in my life soared significantly.

In another example, after leaving a company that I worked in for 12 years I employed the services of a personal development mentor to guide me through my next career transition. I would meet with the coach on a weekly basis over three months and discuss my progress in building and enhancing my skills for my next challenge in life. My mentor would give me self discovery exercises, references to read and small development projects to complete between the meeting sessions. My mentor also opened my mind to a wealth of opportunities that I would investigate and develop in later months and years.

Finding the right mentor or business coach can have a significant effect on your life. A mentor can teach and guide you through your life journey and can be one of the best ways to achieve personal success. For example, a business mentor can provide you with the tools and resources to grow your business or to teach you the strategies and processes (tricks of the trade) for a new business opportunity. In a recent experience, without the influence of an internet business coach I would not have been able to develop my internet-based business skills. Can you identify a person in your domain or area of interest who has been successful and would make a great mentor? Your next step is to contact the person via telephone or a written letter and request whether they can be your mentor. Don’t be afraid; the worst thing that can happen is that they say “No”. If this occurs you then look for another possible mentor. For additional mobile information, consult the experts when it comes to samsung galaxy specifications.

Building networks of people who can add value, share ideas and build collaborations or alliances should be one of your key goals, if you are going to succeed in any business or creative endeavour. Your networks will become a source of ideas, knowledge, support, motivation, channels to other networks, access to markets, and even revenue sources. How do you then set about building a network? The first step is to become a better networker by improving your networking skills and overcoming fear and low self-esteem. Following is a simple six-step approach to networking:

  1. Identify networking opportunities and events such as meetings, luncheons, seminars and conferences. Target specific events with a topic of interest related to your definite purpose or goal.
  2. Take the responsibility to interact first. Remember the worst thing that can happen to you is a polite rejection. Network the room as much as possible. Don’t stick to a single person, or remain alone at the outer perimeter of the room, which is common amongst people with low self-esteem. Try to join a group of people who are already interacting or look for someone who is alone.
  3. Have a topic of interest to discuss e.g. a topic from the seminar or conference, or ask the other person a question about their job or work. I always like to begin with “Hi, my name is John and I work for …”. After the other person responds with their name and organisation, I immediately follow with a question or statement related to the seminar or conference. If the networking occurs before the event I tend to ask a general question such as “Are you looking forward to listening to the speaker?”, “What attracted you to this seminar?” or “What do you do for a living?”. It is also a good idea to have a prepared 2-3 minute “Elevator Pitch” describing what you do. For example I say, “I put money into people’s pockets by helping them take their ideas to market”. This generally grabs the person’s attention.
  4. Exchange business cards or contact details. This is generally done during the introduction or after you have found out more about the person. Ensure that you offer your business card first as the other person will generally reciprocate. If the other person does not have a business card write their contact information in a notebook or on a piece of paper. It is also a good idea to write where you met and any follow-up action items or notes about the person on the back of the business card. Don’t forget to record their details, as soon as possible, in a contact database together with notes about the person, where you met and any follow-up actions.
  5. Cultivate your relationship through maintaining regular contact. This could be done through the use of a combination of tools and processes, such as regular email, the online tool LinkedIn, a contact database or by periodically catching up face-to-face for coffee, lunch or at upcoming meetings and seminars. I use LinkedIn quite extensively as this allows me to build a network of people very easily. It also has an email function that allows me to send individual or group messages, and also includes a short message function linked to Twitter. For more specific profile building of my contacts I use a database such as Microsoft Business Contact Manager which is linked to Outlook. I like to use a Relationship Maintenance Schedule (in spreadsheet format) for my more important contacts where I build in a schedule of activities, including periodically sending my contacts articles of interest, links to interesting internet sites, or provide them with business leads and new opportunities.
  6. Become a network architect for others. The ultimate goal is to become the “go-to” person for introducing others to people you know. You essentially become the “intellectual gravity” or thought leader for a given domain and its networks, by attracting like-minded individuals or people seeking knowledge and inspiration.

Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich” described the power of the Mastermind. The mastermind principle is defined as the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people for the achievement of a definite purpose. A mastermind group can be a powerful way to achieve your definite purpose or goal. I have joined a few mastermind groups each having a specific purpose or goal where the contribution of the knowledge, experience and united spirit of all members can catapult you to the next level of achievement. Members of a mastermind group will have a common interest where each person is willing to discuss topics openly and contribute knowledge and experience. The mastermind groups that I belong to meet regularly and have formal and informal agendas for prior preparation and subsequent discussion. A number of outcomes have emerged from my mastermind groups, including sharing knowledge and ideas, creating new start-up businesses, identifying new commercial opportunities, and developing solutions for business and community problems. Some of the most successful people in the world (e.g. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie) have relied on their mastermind groups to guide them or provide wisdom and inspiration.

Another example of a mastermind alliance is that of the creative community which dates back to the Middle Ages. For example, Leonardo da Vinci worked in a master’s studio (Verrocchio’s workshop) with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. The Parisian Salons of the 1920’s and 1930’s are other examples of creative communities, where people like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Thornton Wilder would get together informally at the Parisian apartments of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to fuel their creative inspiration. You can also locate and join a mastermind group or creative community that focuses on your domain or area of interest. Searching the internet, reading trade journals or popular magazines can identify mastermind groups or creative communities. You can also ask your contacts through your networks if they belong to any mastermind groups or creative communities. If you cannot locate a particular mastermind group or creative community then you might consider forming your own.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

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