The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Innovation Roundtable Workshop

Recently, I attended an Innovation Roundtable workshop (@innovationroundtable) hosted by Tetra Pak in Lund, Sweden.  The Innovation Roundtable holds a number of event every year covering a wide range of events hosted by leading firms and in key European locations, addressing different innovation topics.

 

The Lund event combined presentations by executive speakers from a number of large companies, immersive roundtable discussions to share experiences and insights on different innovation topics, and informal breaks for networking with peers.

 

I believe that these kind of multi-industry and mult-company workshops are an excellent forum to meet and network with the business side of existing or possible clients. It’s definitely worth getting involved I these kind of session, hopefully you’ll get as much fun and insight out of it as I did during this workshop.

 

 

Labels: CxO| Innovation| Vision

If it is innovative, you probably will need to spell it out

innovation.pngAs I mentioned previously, I’ve been in a number of conversations about innovation lately. One thing that surprises me is that so often, in these innovation discussions, teams fail to take into account the behavioral issues and the need to formally communicate what will be different, how it will be measured and why (this is a place where gamification can help).

 

After spending time ‘heads down’ working on an innovative effort, we somehow assume that everyone else will have the same contextual understanding. If the idea or solution is really innovative, I’d bet the rest of the world does not have that same view. Taking the step back to view it from others perspective can be quite difficult. You’ll need to spell out how others will benefit, what will be expected of their behavior and what the relationship is of the innovation in the bigger plan.

 

I was in a discussion of strategic organizational planning for a service organization and they had the same issues. It is not just about having an organizational scope and mission statement.

The need for an innovative look at innovation efforts

innovation unlock.pngI’ve been in a number of discussion lately looking at innovation activities. In today’s dynamic business environment, the status quo is riskier than changing – sometimes it may not matter which direction you move, as long as you’re not standing still.

 

I am a big advocate for gamification, but most of these efforts are based on a bottoms-up approach that tries to leverage the ‘intelligence of the crowd’. Some interesting things definitely do come out of these efforts, but rarely are they directed on what is really needed. If 5% can be implemented, you’re doing great with these approaches.

 

That is where top down approaches to innovation come into play. They try to focus the innovation flow around a specific concern or issue. I used the term flow, because it’s happening, whether we tap into it or not – innovation is just part of being human. Top down in combination with a bottoms-up approach are more effective. Yet – they’re not effective enough.

 

I have figured out a few things (that are probably obvious to most):

  • Innovation needs a strategic focus. At the same time, the chance of getting it right the first time is slim, so an approach needs to be both strategic and agile (at the same time).
  • Innovation needs to be part of the mindset of the people involved. For many organizations, innovation doesn't feature anywhere in their plans and that’s a shame. This can be true for entrepreneurial organizations as well as large corporations. I mentioned strategic importance of innovation, yet culture eats strategy for lunch.
  • If you want to grow, you need to find a way of embedding innovation in your strategic priorities – and that means investment. It also needs to be focused on what you do and how you do it. This is one of the most frustration parts of working in the IT space. We think that being innovative in IT is something that should be recognized by the rest of the business. In many ways, they pay us (particularly service organizations) so they don’t need to see it at all – let alone view it as innovative.
  • Innovation efforts need to be measurable. Just because ideas are new, doesn’t mean there won’t be a ruler to measure progress. There will be one, why not plan on it.

A while back I mentioned that one of the first laws of technical leadership is “don’t discourage them”. The same can be true about the approach to innovation. At the same time, innovation efforts need to be focused on outcomes -- we actually need to do something and not just think about it.

 

I have come to the conclusion that we need a more innovative approach to innovation, since the whole concept is full of conflicts. One of the first things that is probably always true though is the need to develop a common understanding and definition of innovation, since it can mean so much to so many .

Will we need to update Moore’s law with the coming innovations...?

memory.jpgI was in an exchange with someone this week where we were talking about technology advances and some of the exponential ‘laws’ of IT. One of those is Moore’s law of transistor density. It is definitely useful, but maybe transistor density no longer has the meaning or breadth of relevance it used to?

 

For storage, it can take many transistors to store a one or a zero. But with Memristor or some of the other technologies that will someday compete with today’s memory circuits, they will not use transistors. Will we need to move to the density of 'holding either a zero or a one' instead?

 

Storage is just the start of the shift in computing circuits that are likely.

IoT and IT’s ability to foresee unintended consequences

Internet of things.pngI was recently talking with someone about an Internet of Things study that is coming out and it really made me wonder. HP has been doing work in the IoT for decades and gets relatively little credit for the efforts. In fact where I started work back in the 80s was writing statistical analysis tools for plant floor (SCADA) data collection – essentially the high value, big data space of its time, back when a 1 MIPS minicomputer was a high $$ investment.

 

The issues we deal with today are a far cry from that era, now we’re as likely to analysis data in the field about well head performance or robotics but many of the fundamentals remain the same. I’ve mentioned the issue of passive oversharing in the past, and addressing that issue needs to be at the foundation of today’s IoT efforts as well as value optimization issues.

 

I was in a discussion about vehicle to vehicle communications requirements a few months back and the whole issue of privacy looms much larger than the first thoughts of preventing accidents. I think everyone would agree that putting on the breaks by those vehicles affected is a good idea. Should the stop lights recognize bad behavior and visually send a signal to other drivers? There are a wide range of innovations possible with a network like this.

 

There are also negative possibilities to be considered:

  • Is passing along this driver performance to the police a good idea? What about insurance companies?
  • What about just that fact that your car knows it is speeding, is that something that others should know?
  • Or the information about where you’re driving to, now that your car is sharing this information with other cars and infrastructure (cell phones already do this by the way).
  • What if a driver can ‘socially engineer’ the limits of the system to maximize the performance for them. An example of this might be if you were to push the system so that yellow lights would stay yellow a bit longer because you’re accelerating into the intersection – is that OK?

Some unintended consciences are going to happen. We should be able to see many of them coming, if we think creatively. IT organizations will need to develop their implication assessment skills, for their social as well as business effects. The IT team should have better comprehension of the analysis and data sharing that has happened elsewhere and the implications, regardless of the business or industry and be able to advise accordingly. They need to reach out early and often.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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