I gleaned much from the World Innovation Forum earlier this month and thought I’d share key takeaways in these past two posts and link back to the speaker profiles to provide more context. What I liked most was how each speaker seamed to build on the one before.

Perhaps one of the most provocative talks was that by Paola Antonelli,  curator at MOMA. Through examples that would scare most corporate executives she presented examples of design on the bleeding edge to show truly innovative thinking and push our notions of how we look at design.  Such examples included a designer who presents each sperm as a different character or engagement rings made from bone scraped from your soul mate. How about a sheet stealer, illustrating how it’s the little annoyances we think about most after a break up, referring to our partner stealing the sheets during the night.

Her key message was that design has an old soul and that it’s really about taking a different attitude towards people; looking at the relationship between people and objects.

“Artists and designers give the world something they didn’t know it was missing.” – Paola Antonelli

Polly Labarre led a panel of five who have successfully managed change in their organizations. Of note, John Seddon mentioned that we conventional management so we can change it. When you manage value, you drive costs out of the system. But when you manage costs, they go up. Focus on the system and forget your people for a moment. And showing the power of simple thinking, the City of Portsmouth, England, unplugged its IT system for scheduling service calls on a Friday and had a new one up on Monday. They created an Access database to manage their call schedules and five years later, it’s still working well. It’s proof that you don’t always need to spend big dollars or implement complex solutions for complex problems. It’s a call to rethink your management processes and look for simple alternatives you might be inclined to dismiss because of their simplicity.

Paddy Miller talked about creating the space where innovation can take place by dealing with the disconnect between management and staff. He advocates stealthstorming where you use the system to innovate: Stealth, on-site not off-site, execute and work with innovation architects. He also suggests we forget the future and look back as their’s much opportunity there. To make the point he uses the examples of adding wheels to suitcases which took from 1950 when air travel really took off to 1987 when two wheels and a handle were introduced on a suitcase. To get there more quickly, we should frame the problem rather than finding the solution. When we do that, the solution presents itself.

M. S.. Krishnan from the University of Michigan  then talked about the two most important words in the English language: “What if”. What if we _______________? There’s a new approach to wealth creation and that’s through focusing on one consumer at a time while leveraging global resources. This is made possible by our connectivity, digitization of information, the cloud and social networks. Where we used to have undifferentiated customers we have moved to personalized co-creation.  Success today requires strong analytics to understand the individual consumer and their behaviors. It’s a world where new ideas, agility, humility and speed trump complacency and legacy thinking. It’s the legacy thinking that gets us in trouble and causes a company’s demise. Look at Blockbuster vs. Netflix. One has gone from $3Billion to $15 million while there other has gone from $300 Million to $12 Billion by thinking differently.

Larry Huston detailed how he fostered innovation at Procter and Gamble. A place you’d think is less than agile. To successfully implement innovative ideas you need to start with a mandate, develop a vision of where to play and how to win, focus on your capabilities and acquire those you don’t have then put strong governance into place to manage the process. Realizing they couldn’t use only internal resources to innovate nor reach all the potential partners they could, P&G put briefs in the marketplace to attract them – looking outside the company for innovation.

These briefs stated their objectives and possible approaches – and in all of their efforts, looked at product categories for possible adjacencies that captured the entire customer experience: Mind, Soul, Task and Body.

I’ve written about Dan Pink’s work before and he reiterated the principles for motivation: You don’t engage by being managed or controlled. Self direction is key for engagement. Management is key for compliance. Mastery and purpose are the essential building blocks – more than money. You remove the issue of money by paying enough to take it off the table as an issue. Make sure you carve out time for non-commissioned work and celebrate progress. He had fun ridiculing the annual performance review as relatively useless.

Jeanne Meister wrapped up the second day by talking about the workplace in 2020 – that it’s about social connections, games and mobile. She predicts that everyone will have a reputation score based on social capital and expertise going forward. Something that we should seriously think about when Tweeting and posting our lives around the net. I think this ties in nicely with Daniel Solove’s book – The future of reputation – and reminds us that Google has a VERY LONG memory.

Each speaker added to the tool box for driving creativity and innovation at work. It’s not easy, but I believe that if you’re willing to look at the systems in place in your company – and understand how they work and how to foster change – you can make it happen. Just because you work at a large company, doesn’t mean you can’t innovate just as small companies are not always the most innovative. It’s about the people, culture, and focus invested.

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