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During a recent hectic week in NYC we had a chance to meet with all kinds of people.  George Lucas was one of them and another was Antonio Perez, Chairman and CEO of Kodak.  It was interesting to observe their different approaches to innovation. 

Lucas clearly says that he isn’t on top of the technology even though his business is driven by it.  He doesn’t see the need to be when he can give a clear idea of what he wants to his people and they get on with it.  For example, the big breakthrough in Star Wars was being able to track a computer created image – Kubrick in 2001, the Space Odyssey, had shown a rocket going from left to right across a frame but Lucas managed to actually pan across the frame and follow the image.  I know, I hadn’t noticed that either.

Meanwhile, this is very different to Antonio Perez who at the drop of a hat loves to get into the technology.  He is very hands on and provides leadership through a contagious enthusiasm for the technology itself.  (For example, here are some of his ideas on intellectual property, in conversation with Alan Murray of the Wall Street Journal.) 

Both men keep their audiences enthralled but with a philosophy on technology that is completely different.

By Paddy Miller and Azra Brankovic

Have you noticed that more and more video interviews and podcasts are done by amateurs (someone in the office) with a Flip or a Kodak Zi8 camera. Easy to use and download images that are good enough for any internal company presentation and come at 100th of the cost of getting professionals in to do it. Take a look at YouTube and you’ll find millions of homegrown movie makers doing their own material. Many podcasts and webinars are done directly from the office and with minimal technical ability. Wired (10/27/09) talks about it as “The Good Enough Revolution” — where just-good-enough products are gaining share (cheap netbooks, shaky phone calls over Skype, watching movies on laptop screens) because we are prizing accessibility and ease of use over quality, and indeed the notion of “quality” is being re-defined to mean cheap, accessible and easy to use. We’re busy, mobile, and wanting something that’s going to work.

Vijay Govindarajan writes about GE learning fast how to turn the good-enough-revolution into big bucks in his HBR article “How GE Is Disrupting Itself.” Vijay talks about GE spending $3 billion to create at least 100 health-care innovations that would substantially lower costs, increase access, and improve quality. Note the correspondence of those last three terms with the above. We believe “quality” here does not mean premium quality, but improved quality in the sense of just good enough. Read the rest of this entry »

The music industry is much discussed in terms of missed opportunities of major players like Universal Music and EMI, and the ability of some companies like Apple to outflank all competitors like Sony.  But there are other companies that are busily moving below the radar.  One of them is Music Intelligence Solutions, or uPlaya to its customers.  uPlaya allows artists to upload their music and have it analyzed and promoted without the intervention of a major label.  It has recently signed contracts with iTunes and MTV to give it credibility.  The company recently won an innovation award.

An innovation such as developed by MIS – essentially the ability to identify hit potential patterns within any music – may be anathema to some music fans but it has a solid research base.  The company is an extension of a company called Polyphonic, founded in Barcelona.  Its story was covered in a Harvard case co-authored by a colleague of ours, Juan Villanueva (“POLYPHONIC HMI: MIXING MUSIC AND MATH”).  It is fast morphing into something quite exciting.  Does it provide a seismic shift in the music industry, judge for yourself.

Round about the 1920’s you could have your own fold up electric three wheeler and leave it in the hallway.  

Mary Tripsas, Harvard prof, may have a point that it was too early for the market then but what about now?  It’s all a question of it fitting into a familiar category she argues.  We have tended to think that it’s a question of fitting into a consumer’s lifestyle – if you don’t have a big hallway you don’t think of this car.

Michael Malone, whose new book The Future Arrived Yesterday will be reviewed here shortly, has an interesting article on “Opportunity’s Unexpected Turns”.  As with the case of PayPal and many other cases great breakthroughs are not initially recognised for what they are. He tells the tale of Intel and the microprocessor and the Great Union Pacific railroad line.

It has been announced that A.G. Lafley will be retiring as CEO of Procter & Gamble, remaining Chairman of the organization. After we reviewed a book last year called The Game-Changer[1], written by A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan, his co-author, it might be the right moment to revisit his ideas that constitute his legacy. The book detailed the open innovation system that Lafley had pioneered at P&G over the past half a dozen years that has become known as Connect and Develop. What stood out about The Game-Changer was its lack of feel for the soft side of bringing about change. There were none of the usual human factor stories, the anecdotes about ordinary employees making the big time, in fact there was little feel for people in the book. This was strange because we had met Lafley at an IESE and WSJ breakfast session and he was very much a people person. The book was a long way from his personal style. He came across as a warm, open person with a real passion for P&G, its products and its customers. His presentation was inspiring to listen to and watch; it gave his audience lots of ideas that day about what could and should be done. Read the rest of this entry »

Since this blog now appears to cover tea time encounters we thought you might be interested in a breakfast we had a while back with CK Prahalad, who was very prominent at the recent World Innovation Forum (where he focused on co-creation and the new assumptions of business*).

The power breakfast is an American invention. My dictionary informs me it is an informal meeting relating to influential business or professional practice – as in, met with a high level academic at a power breakfast. It usually combines a lengthy but light meal that could sustain one for the rest of the day together with an action focused business discussion.

The academic is CK Prahalad, everyone calls him “CK” (pronounced see-kay). The breakfast venue is Brasserie Roux, St. James Place, close to the Mall in London. Our power breakfast achieves the opposite to the definition of one – it provides a forum for discussion that sustains one for weeks while, on the gastronomic front, we struggle to keep body and soul together. Read the rest of this entry »

We sat sipping tea out of paper cups. It used to be that you drank coffee out of cartons only when you went into Starbucks. Coffee may be acceptable in a carton, but tea? It calls for some ingenuity to find cups backstage at the Nokia Theatre where Vijay Govindarajan is soon to appear before a packed house. He is one of the main attractions at the World Innovation Forum – the Davos of the innovation world.

He sits with one leg folded over the other, a picture of serenity. We talk about India and cricket. But he is here to talk to everyone else about the subject of his latest book, Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators. He tells me it is based on years of research and I can believe him. He has been working in this area for as long as anyone can remember. He says this gives everything he writes a practical turn – sometimes difficult on issues that are complex. “Forgetting” is one of them. What are the real issues in “forgetting” your past? I ask. He is thoughtful on this and takes his time to answer. Read the rest of this entry »

We recently did a quick survey on innovation among the attendees of the World Business Forum, a major business event which is taking place this week in New York. The main results, presented on stage Tuesday, are detailed here.  

My company has a culture of innovation
These results confirm what we have suspected for some time – that there is a gap between the need for innovation as perceived by senior management and the prevailing creative focus of the organization’s culture. Putting it simply: While senior management may focus on innovation being a top priority for the company, the organization itself has shortcomings in its culture that make sustainable creativity difficult.

Innovation is critical to sustaining competitive advantage in my sector

We have observed that often executives take part in innovation workshops that leave them stranded on what we call “brainstorm island.” They have lots of ideas, some of them good, but they have a poor record when it comes to implementing those ideas.

Our research in this area continues as we try to understand the dynamics of taking better decisions about innovation and how innovation architects, such as A.G. Lafley at Procter & Gamble, design and structure their organizations to become creative cultures. (See our review of Lafley’s book.)

My CEO clearly communicates the need for innovation

There also exists a gap between the need for innovation as perceived by senior managers and the ability of the CEO to get his/her story line clear on an innovation strategy. Our experience confirms that when it comes to the creativity mission for most businesses, CEOs have a long way to go before their message is understood throughout the business.





Here are the detailed numbers from the survey, should you want to see them.

Innovation is critical to sustaining competitive advantage in my sector

Strongly agree                                                              117                                               58%

Somewhat agree                                                           67                                                33%

Neither agree nor disagree                                             9                                                 4%

Somewhat disagree                                                       6                                                  3%

Strongly disagree                                                           2                                                  1%

Not applicable                                                                 1                                                  0%

Total                                                                              202                                             100% 

My CEO clearly communicates the need for innovation

Strongly agree                                                               72                                                36%

Somewhat agree                                                           83                                                41%

Neither agree nor disagree                                            23                                                11%

Somewhat disagree                                                      13                                                 6%

Strongly disagree                                                           8                                                  4%

Not applicable                                                                 3                                                  1%

Total                                                                              202                                             100%

My company has a culture of innovation

Strongly agree                                                              47                                                23%

Somewhat agree                                                          81                                                40%

Neither agree nor disagree                                           38                                                19%

Somewhat disagree                                                      24                                                12%

Strongly disagree                                                          12                                                 6%

Not applicable                                                                 0                                                  0%

Total                                                                              202                                             100%


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