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What’s on the innovation agenda?

Over 600 innovation professionals recently descended on Copenhagen for the 2017 Innovation Roundtable Summit. These were people responsible for innovation within some of the world’s largest consumer products, manufacturing and retail organisations.

Over three days, packed full of debate and discussion, three insights stood out for me.

1. Invest heavily in innovation that gives people their time back

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs, has a simple formula for innovation:

Innovation = Invention + Implementation

Marcus believes innovation that gives people their time back is where the hot spot is. It’s also about being practical, so failure should be embraced as it’s an essential part of the learning process.  This was great to hear as this is the approach we take with organisations such as Drayson TechnologiesLand Rover BAR and Rentokil.

Marcus also gave us a quick glimpse into what he believes is the future – that everything will be connected due to the ever-shrinking cost of Internet of Things sensors. He emphasised the need to find a combined consumer and business benefit, and then apply the technology. And he predicts significant changes to lifestyles around convenience, control and personalisation. 

2. An innovation culture is propped up by six pillars that must work in harmony

To quote Mohanbir Sawhney, Professor at Northwestern Kellogg Business School, “A fool with a tool, is still a fool!” And in this case, he was talking about how organisations that invest in the latest siloed tools to help them innovate could be pouring money down the drain.

He outlined six essentials that must work together to stimulate, nurture and grow an innovation culture.

  1. Values – what the business, brand and employees truly believe in
  2. Structure – meritocracy is an admirable model if you can accept the chaos
  3. Process – an autonomous framework that’s creative, rigorous and has no unnecessary ‘red tape’
  4. Incentives – which are in sync with objectives and have a team focus
  5. Tools – that encourage collaboration, speed up and record the creative process
  6. Folklore – in particular, remember that ‘you’re as good as your last game’ and ‘don’t believe the hype’ 

3. Everyone is facing the same challenge 

This one isn’t from a presentation. It’s something I picked up on from the other guests. I found many people know how to talk about innovation but are struggling to practically address it. Across sectors, and at all levels, discussions were peppered with reasons why innovation wasn’t working back at base – certain individuals or a lack of investment, understanding, vision and trust.  Perhaps the struggle is fuelled by fear of failure? And that’s when innovation inertia creeps in. 

After three days of discussions, lightbulbs were pinging and pennies were dropping. It’s external partners, with fresh thinking and approaches, who can help to get things moving. We just need to let them in.

It’s clearly no longer business as usual, and it’s through an eclectic and collaborative mix that we’ll be able to progress.

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