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Building Sustainable Collaborative and Open Innovation Programs – University of Ljubljana

I will be giving an invited lecture at the Raziskovalni center Ekonomske fakultete (Faculty of Economics) of the University of Ljubljana on February 15, 2010. My talk will focus on how organizations can design collaborative innovation programs.

Organizations cannot innovate in isolation. Ideas, knowledge, expertise, and processes needed for innovation are often distributed in the marketplace across a wide-assortment of actors from business partners, to customers, government agencies, and even competitors. Organizations have to find ways to collaborate and develop open, rather than closed, innovation programs. Collaboration calls for the ability to share required artifacts from ideas to knowledge and expertise, and even processes, with external entities. Being open requires an organization to unlock, and make available, its innovation process to external entities. Developing Collaborative and Open Innovation (COI) programs can be a daunting challenge. Issues such as ensuring trust, governance structures, rewards and incentives, and mechanisms for rent sharing from innovations can seem insurmountable. In this presentation, I will share actionable knowledge on how we can build sustainable COI programs. I will draw on research and consulting on designing organizational innovation programs in over 50 global organizations. I will share a framework for organizations that want to collaborate on innovation. This framework will outline methods for collaborative idea generation and mobilization, idea advocacy and screening, idea experimentation, idea commercialization, and idea diffusion and implementation. Examples will be used to illustrate how leading organizations collaborate with external entities for innovation and build open innovation programs that external entities can plug-into.

Information Management and Environmental Sustainability: New Article in Business Information Review

Peter C. Ellis and I have a paper published in the current issue of Business Information Review.

Abstract: Attempting to merge the topics of environmental sustainability and information management, this article works towards defining both fields and constructing a viable framework that creates a strong relationship between the two topics. Reviewing literature on information management and environmental sustainability, the authors argue that the two topics must become inseparable — the work in one discipline must inform and advance the other. The need to do so is further underscored by the evolving nature of both disciplines.

To access the article, please click here [LINK]

Reference: Ellis, P.C., and Desouza, K.C. “On Information Management, Environmental Sustainability, and Cradle to Cradle Mentalities: A Relationship Framework,” Business Information Review, 26 (4), 2009, 257-264.

What do you mean by a “good idea”?

Here is a simple exercise: Find 20 people in your organization. Ideally, choose people across the various hierarchical levels and functional departments of your organization. Ask each person two questions: How would you define a good idea? How do you recognize a good idea? Chances are high that if you work in a typical organization, you will arrive at 20 different answers! Some individuals may not even be able to articulate what is a good idea or to clearly describe how to recognize good ideas. Is this a problem? You bet it is! One of the major challenges faced by organizations as they try to come up with good ideas is the lack of a definition of what constitutes a good idea. It is common to find organizations that take the stance that a good idea is in the eye of the beholder, or in contrast, that a good idea is like pornography, you will recognize it when you see it. Similarly, most organizations lack a clearly defined process on how to recognize good ideas. As one manager put it, “employees may not recognize a good idea if it smacked them right on their faces.”

The organization that wants to foster a spirit of intrapreneurship must: 1) clearly define what is, and what is not, an idea, 2) arrive at a typology for the various types of ideas, 3) articulate a process for refining thoughts into ideas and then into ‘good’ ideas, 4) reward employees for sharing ‘good’ ideas, and 5) reward employees who serve as brokers (or intermediaries) for mobilizing ideas from one corner of the organization to the next.

What are some practices that your organization has in place to address these issues?

For more details, please stay tuned for my new book on intrapreneurship…or drop me an email!

Global Text Project: A Panel Discussion

I will be serving on a panel with the co-project leaders of the Global Text Project, Rick Watson (University of Georgia) and Don McCubbrey (University of Denver) at the 2nd Annual SIG GlobDev Workshop. The goal of the panel is twofold – 1) to continue to raise awareness about the project and recruit professors to participate in the effort, and 2) to update the IS community on the work to-date, the opportunities on the horizon, and the challenges we face. My prepared remarks focus on 1) highlighting the work being done by graduate students in the Masters of Science of Information Management program at the Information School, University of Washington, and 2) outlining ideas on how we might build learning communities around each textbook. I am looking forward to a stimulating discussion.

Advocating and Screening for Ideas

If you have ideas, what should you do with them? How do you know which ideas to pursue (and which to abandon)? As an idea creator, how do you know which ideas will get the attention of managers or how to present ideas for consideration? As a manager, how do you screen the numerous ideas you get from your staff? These are not simple questions to answer. Unfortunately, this stage of the intrapreneurship process represents the Achilles' heel for most organizations. Too many organizations spend a lot of time, effort, and resources to get ideas from their employees but then do not know what to do with them. Equally discomforting are cases where employees spend too much time creating ideas for which there is no organizational interest or need. The end result is a lot of waste – from the individual to the organizational level.

Consider the case of a global technology organization. The organization, founded in the mid 1990s, had seen unprecedented growth during the Internet boom days. As one senior executive remarked, “we were not only running on all cylinders, but were actually borrowing cylinders and fuel rods to keep up with demand.” The organization grew from humble beginnings (3 students!) to just under 200 employees in five years. It now has 10 clients in US states and 3 international clients (based in London, Brussels, and Amsterdam). As soon as the glory days came to a screeching halt with the dot.com bust, the organization, like many of its compatriots in the industry, had to do some hard thinking to redefine business strategies. To this end, the organization solicited ideas from its employees concerning the company's direction for the future– the slogan – 10 for 10: 10 big ideas for the next 10 years! The goal was to get the firm to think big and to identify 10 broad areas that 1) they would want to invest and build capability in, 2) they would want to build collaborative capacities by reaching out to start-ups and established firms, and 3) they would require re-tuning (or complete obliteration) of their current strategic focus. The company did what any other organization would do; It solicited ideas from employees across all ranks. The company commissioned online “idea drop boxes.” Employees could send in their ideas via filling in a brief online questionnaire. Within a week, the company had over 500 ideas (about 2.5 ideas from each employee!); and by the end of the four week idea solicitation period they had captured over 1200 ideas (a little more than 6 ideas per employee!) As one executive remarked, “we underestimated the whole [idea solicitation] thing…employees were scared…their friends were losing jobs, companies like ours were closing, venture capitalist were getting tighter with the purse strings…all of this contributed to fear…employees wanted to help the company, and themselves, by sharing their best ideas that would not only keep us afloat but secure a better future…” This was the easy part-- getting ideas-- the big challenge ahead for the organization was what to do with these and how do to go about screening them. Over the course of the next five months, the firm tried its best to bubble up the best ideas through applying various screening procedures, getting comments and feedback on ideas from internal (i.e. employees), as well as external (i.e. board of directors, collaborators from academia, venture capitalist, etc), sources.

Unfortunately, the organization did not have a robust process for advocating and screening ideas. The end-result is best summarized by a statement made by the CEO – “absolute disaster…we ended up pissing off more staff than those we appeased, lost good employees who felt their ideas were not duly considered, and what hurts me most, is employees lost faith in the organization as a place that valued ideas…front-line programmers and system designers who are our most important assets felt ideas get promoted based on ones political network and clout…we all lost, I will never do this again…we might never recover the trust and camaraderie that we had prior to this undertaking.

The bad news for organizations is that the advocacy and screening stage of the intrapreneurship process is fraught with difficulties.

To learn how to build sustainable processes for idea advocacy and screening, please contact me (or wait for a future posting…or my new book)

Blogging and Writing: Keeping me Honest

It has been a while since I actively blogged. I have engaged in “passive blogging” over the past few months. This has involved posting snippets of upcoming speaking engagements and papers that have been published. This has been helpful in getting the word out and networking. For the next few months (or years, if I stay disciplined!), I am hoping to engage in active blogging. I will share my thoughts on two major topics: 1) innovation – leveraging ideas for innovation, and 2) managing intellectual assets – how organizations are building and deploying intellectual assets. I will also share thoughts on other random issues from entrepreneurship to terrorism and government information policy. I will do this for two reasons: 1) to engage you, my reader and /or website visitor, into a dialogue, and 2) to keep me honest on my writing projects. Over the last few months, I have built a huge backlog of writing projects. Blogging will help me share notes, musings, and ideas, as I draft concepts, papers, or even get close to completing two book projects. Stay tuned for more details...

The Future of Innovation in the Insurance Industry: Talk at PEMCO Insurance

pemcoOn September 10th, I will be giving a talk at PEMCO Insurance on the Future of Innovation in the Insurance Industry. I plan to outline how insurance providers can enhance service offerings and enrich customer experiences through crafting sustainable innovation processes. This talk is part of PEMCO’s @pfslive series, which brings together over 100 business professionals from the following organizations: PEMCO Insurance, School Employees Credit Union of Washington, Evergreen Bank, PEMCO Corporation, and PEMCO Technology Services, Inc.

Speaking at Talent Management – 2009

PLSI will be speaking at the 2009, Talent Management: A Systematic Approach to Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Talent and Organizational Knowledge Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona (November 4-6, 2009). My talk will discuss key strategies global organizations employ to build effective knowledge transfer and retention strategies.

Knowledge Transfer: A System for Capturing and Transferring Institutional Memory
As an organization prepares for the departure of valuable staff, a key challenge is how to capture, store, and transfer knowledge. Managing knowledge and ensuring its transfer will increase productivity.

This session will provide useful tools and processes for selecting the best strategy to fit your organization’s culture. Participants will explore the use of technology as well as best practice approaches and tools to preserve and transmit institutional memory. Topics include:

  • The role of technology in collecting, storing, and retrieving vital knowledge
  • Methods for knowledge transfer
  • The role of document management processes
  • A process map for knowledge management and transfer
  • Best practices and alternatives

To register for the event, please click here.

Sustaining Innovation: Challenges for Incumbent Firms

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A paper that I co-authored with Ashley Braganza (Brunel University) and Yukika Awazu (Bentley University) appears in the current issue of Research-Technology Management.

In today's competitive environment, the ability of an organization to innovate is paramount. While most organizations have flashes or spurts of innovation, only a handful have been able to innovate on a continuous and sustained basis. This paper surveys the challenges faced by firms when trying to build sustainable innovation programs. These findings have been derived from an examination of innovation programs in over 30 organizations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Braganza, A., Awazu, Y., and Desouza, K.C. “Sustaining Innovation is Challenge for Incumbents,” Research-Technology Management, 52(4), 2009, 46-56.

To access the paper, please click here [LINK]

A New Work Force Wave: Managing Millennials (See beyond the stereotypes of the ‘Me Generation’ to harness creativity)

I was recently interviewed for an article on innovation by Colin Simpson of the Bellingham Business Journal. To retrieve the article, please click here [LINK]. As I continue to study innovation practices in high-technology organizations, I continue to be amazed by the innovative capacities of the ‘Me Generation’….