My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 071709

From the home office in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.

#1: Reading: Your Idea Sucks, Now Go Do It Anyway http://bit.ly/10Dwi0 Most important thing is to get started, not be right #innovation

#2: Love this quote: “Disruptive innovation has been held up as the Olympics of innovation sport.” http://bit.ly/15ypw6

#3: Google and Apple “are accidental competitors. They just don’t seem to know it yet.” http://bit.ly/4xjXCJ

#4: Reading: Adoption stories http://bit.ly/6hNJr by @panklam on The AppGap #e20 #e2adoption

#5: Social Computing Journal picks up my post – Enterprise 2.0: Culture Is as Culture Does http://bit.ly/eTA43 #e20

#6: P&G’s @JoeSchueller has a nice comment on Google Wave’s potential in the enterprise on Socialtext’s blog: http://bit.ly/xRkGj

#7: I like @fredwilson‘s take on customers. Active transactors vs. active users. http://bit.ly/WrHQ2

#8: RT @markivey Why BusinessWeek Matters (from a former BW writer) http://bit.ly/fe9GC Really GREAT post, why we *need* our news institutions

#9: An entrepreneur who has built companies in both Silicon Valley and NYC describes the issues w/NYC for startups: http://bit.ly/G2Hss

#10: I ♥ wikis

My Take on Crowdsourcing Published on Business Week’s Website

Business Week’s Editor for Innovation and Design, Helen Walters, recently asked the crowd for their opinions on crowdsourcing, via Twitter:

thoughts on crowdsourcing? @jtwinsor has written a bw op-ed but we want to publish the crowd’s take, too. (pls RT!)

I replied with a couple tweets, which I then coalesced into a single thought via email. Business Week recently published ten of these opinions. Here’s mine:

BusinessWeek quote on crowdsourcingYou can see all of the opinions, and the a link to John Winsor’s op-ed here. Another contributor, Braden Kelley, also wrote up his Business Week crowdsourcing comment on his blog Blogging Innovation.

Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation

Jim Collins related a story back in 1999 that well-describes the problems with and opportunities for innovation inside organizations. In a Harvard Business Review article, he wrote about Phil Archuleta, a materials manager at a U.S Marines recruiting depot in San Diego.

The Marines would issue new enlistees a uniform on their first day in the service. After two weeks of intensive training, these recruits needed a new uniform because the initial ones no longer fit. Marine policy was that the recruits original uniforms were to be destroyed. That’s right, thrown away.

Archuleta thought that policy was daft, and that the uniforms could simply be washed and used for the next class of recruits. He asked his superior, and was told, “No. It’s against regulations. Forget about it.” Eventually, Archuleta got a new supervisor who thought he had a good idea, and promoted it up the military chain. The idea was well-received at the higher levels, and implemented across the Marines. It resulted in annual cost savings of half a million dollars.

How many ideas by the likes of a Phil Archuleta are buried inside organizations?

Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation

The presentation below is one that I gave for recent webinar with Oliver Young of Forrester. The webinar focused on deriving ideas from organizations’ communities: employees, customers, partners.

The presentation is built around four themes:

  1. Strategic importance of innovation
  2. Email <> community
  3. Corporate innovation is more than a popularity contest
  4. You can’t manage what you can’t measure

Strategic value of innovation

Certainly this qualifies as an obvious notion. Innovation is important to companies. It’s the source of organic growth. But in many ways, companies are not treating it as important as other processes, such as supply chain management and cost accounting. Thus, it is important to reiterate the obvious.

Boston Consulting Group analyzed the shareholder returns for companies in its Top 50 innovators list. It compared these returns to markets averages, and found that best-in-class innovators generated 430 basis points more in returns than did the market. Aberdeen Group surveyed 280 manufacturers, and characterized their innovation capabilities as best-in-class, average and laggard. Best-in-class innovators, who far more consistently hit new product revenue targets and launch dates, were 4.7 times more likely to create specific processes for idea generation.

No surprise then that senior executives rank innovation as a top 3 priority.  Accenture well-describes the goals and aspirations of companies: create repeatable and ongoing improvements in business performance.

Key, of course, is to consider innovation among the disciplines in which a company should excel. And create a program for it accordingly.

Email <> community

I’ve worked for large companies. I know how it goes when you have an idea. Jot it down somewhere. Talk it out with someone. Then email someone else about it. If you’re lucky, someone in that email will pick it up. Maybe.

More often than not, interesting ideas just sort of lie there, buried in the minutiae of the daily grind or not catching the interest of a particular individual. Which is what happened to Phil Arhuleta’s idea about the Marines’ uniforms.

Rather than rely on ad hoc, siloed forms of communicating ideas (like email), social networks provide a new way to tap communities. The diagram below shows the process by which innovation is fostered with a social innovation platform:

Ideas are the social objects for community interaction

Ideas are the social objects for community interaction

On the top left, it’s important that companies understand: ideas can come at any time, in any form. They’re rarely subject to scheduling. Once you have an idea, there’s needs to be an easily accessible, and easily usable,  site for the posting of those ideas. No more silos!

Creating a common site is critical aspect #1 of creating an innovation program. Employees, customers and partners should have a single place where each community can go to post the ideas that occur to them.

Critical aspect #2 is the ability of the community to provide feedback on an idea. Separating the good from the bad, and refining ideas to help them take shape are the heavy lifting of emergent, social systems.

In the upper right, the refinement of good ideas takes shape. This includes the feedback from the community, as well as offline activities around the idea, such as design work, marketing plans and financial analysis. Finally, in the lower right, the company selects an idea based on community feedback and refinement.

Aside from the benefit of actually knowing about a lot more valuable ideas, there’s another benefit to community-driven innovation management: ideas get better when they’re subject to diverse points of view and knowledge. See the earlier post What Enterprise Social Networks Do Well: Produce Higher Quality Ideas to understand that effect.

Finally, the graphic below describes the community innovation cycle:

Bottom-up innovation requires top-down support

Bottom-up innovation requires top-down support

I think the concepts of expand community and pipeline of ideas are relatively self-explanatory. And I just discussed the engage, access, refine, select part of the cycle. The other two are the top-down support needed to ensure the community feels their efforts matter.

Keep in mind that when people suggest ideas to companies, these aren’t just conversation starters with their fellow community members. People want to know that companies listen to good ideas and take action. That’s quite clear to a community when its ideas are actually implemented, and there is a reward and recognitions for its members.

Executives go a long way, particularly with employees, when they make the company innovation program a focus point. Employees will take their priorities from senior management, and executive sponsorship is an important factor for creating an ongoing, sustainable innovation program.

Corporate innovation is more than a popularity contest

The most common notion of community innovation is the principle of: one person = one vote. An idea that receives a lot of votes clearly is more useful and valuable than an idea receiving fewer votes. This “rule” works well with products that exhibit these characteristics:

  • End buyer requests
  • Lower complexity features
  • No concentration of buying power

That last bullet needs a little explaining. Dispersed buying power means that basically you can consider each vote to be the equivalent of one product purchase. If you have a few customers that generate a significant amount of your sales, their votes should carry more weight.

There are going to be plenty of ideas that require stronger stuff than basic popularity. I like the way Microsoft’s Haddow Wilson put it:

There are times when the collective wisdom is what we need. But what about those times when we need to make a strategic decision and only a few in the crowd have the necessary background and insight to help? How do we separate the knowledge from the noise? How do we know to whom to listen? How do we find them?

Innovation communities need a way to identify those whose opinions should carry greater weight. They essentially need reputation systems to identify members with greater standing among the community. This stature can be assigned or earned.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

The ethos and value of Enterprise 2.0 focuses on the emergent, authentic nature of employee contributions. It’s historically been hard for employees to apply knowledge in a timely fashion. In this culture, “management” is often a loaded word, with connotations of over-processing and controlling the ways in which employees collaborate.

But that should not stand in the way of measurement. You can have measurement of outcomes, and inputs, and use that to guide the community generally in the direction you’d want to take an innovation program. On the flip side, if a community continues to generate ideas that aren’t squaring with the company’s vision of where it wants to go, it’s porbably wise to listen to them.

Either way, measurement provides a view into the health of the community (posts, comments, views, etc.), the sources of the ideas (groups, categories, product lines, etc.) and the traction that ideas put on the platform are getting (stages, implementations).

Measurement is also the basis for analytics used to surface the best ideas from the rest. One other thing measurement does is this: it positively affects the culture of companies.

Performance and Culture

Breed performance, change culture

The transparency that measurement on an innovation management platform provides is healthy. Everyone can see the bases by which ideas advance. Everyone knows how their own ideas are faring, and can do something about it. This happens because of measurement.

It’s about creating ongoing, sustainable innovation

Companies will benefit greatly once they establish an ongoing program of innovation. It’s too often takes phenomenal acts of heroism to get an idea through the ad hoc channels and processes that dominate corporate innovation today.

Time to treat innovation as a discipline worthy of its own resources and focus.

I’m Heading to the World Innovation Forum

world-innovation-forum-logo

I’m heading out to the World Innovation Forum in New York on Monday, May 4. I’m really looking forward to this conference. It has a lot of wattage and great attendees.

Spigit will be there to take in the discussions and meet folks.If you’re going to be there, shoot me a DM or @reply on Twitter. I’d love to catch up. On Twitter, the hash tag for the event is #wif09.

Here’s the speaker list for the World Innovation Forum:

  • Clayton Christensen – Disruptive Innovation as a Platform for Growth
  • Vijay Govindarajan – Strategic Innovators: From Ideas to Execution
  • Fred Krupp – Untangling the Future: Why Innovations Never Follow a Straight Line (eco focus)
  • Dan Ariely – Changing Focus: Why Human Behavior is the Hunting Ground for Insight & Innovation
  • CK Prahalad – The New Age of Innovation
  • Paul Saffo – How Today’s Technology is Defining Tomorrow’s Creator Economy
  • Padmasree Warrior – Cisco CTO

There will case studies discussed as well. Media partners are the Wall Street Journal and Business Week. Dozens of large corporations will be there too.

There will be a number of specially designated people blogging and tweeting about the vent. Some details about this were put together by EMC’s Stuart Miniman in this presentation:

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 050109

From the home office in La Gloria, Mexico…

#1: Not sure if it’s good or bad that I just learned that David Souter is retiring from the Supreme Court via Twitter Trending Topics.

#2: Had to do it, subscribed to @whitehouse

#3: The #TCOT grass roots conservative movement on Twitter is riven by feuding at the top: http://bit.ly/nwr1m

#4: Interested in corporate innovation? Join Forrester’s @oliveryoung & me for a webinar to learn practical ways to improve  http://bit.ly/cGI4W

#5: Reading: How to Get the Most From Your Best Ideas http://bit.ly/kuWci by @Accenture

#6: Looking at BW’s 50 most innovative companies http://bit.ly/18nBe7 How much of what #1 Apple & #2 Google do really applies to most companies?

#7: Reading – Enterprise 2.0 marketing score card: solid ‘C’ http://bit.ly/T1yJi by @sameerpatel Great Google Trends charts

#8: Joined foursquare, which asks you to add/rate stuff for cities. Hard to be hip as a parent, here’s my playground entry http://bit.ly/MBsE4

#9: Really interesting study and hypothesis about how our brains forget/rewrite memories just by recalling them http://bit.ly/1941k8

#10: Today is apparently a big day 4 college acceptance letters. Here’s a post that describes harshest/nicest reject letters http://bit.ly/1anN7p

Strategic Intuition: The Innovation of Flickr and Twitter

At the Defrag conference last November, all attendees received a copy of Strategic Intuition by Columbia professor William Duggan. It’s taken me a while to get around to it, but I am really enjoying this book.

So what is strategic intuition? It’s the process that leads to that flash of insight that hits you upside the head. Here’s how Duggan describes that:

It’s an open secret that good ideas come to you as flashes of insight, often when you don’t expect them. It’s probably happened to you – in the shower, or stepping onto a train, or stuck in traffic, falling asleep, swimming, or brushing your teeth in the morning.

Suddenly it hits you. It all comes together in your mind. You connect the dots. It can be one big “Aha!” or a series of smaller ones that together show you the way ahead. The fog clears and you see what to do. It seems so obvious. A moment before you had no idea. Now you do.

Professor Duggan’s work relates to the processes that lead up to that “aha!” moment. Yes, it turns out there’s a lot that happens before we’re struck with such blinding insights. And this research leads to some intriguing ways to think about pursuing innovation.

The book is chock full of perspectives from different fields that relate to his core premise of strategic intuition. If you read the book, you’ll get them all. Two that most interested me were:

  1. European military strategists: von Clausewitz vs. Jomini
  2. Ancient Asian philosophy: Dharma and Karma

I’m not passionate about either of those topics, yet when you read how Duggan relates them to the ways in which people innovate, they become quite compelling.

von Clausewitz vs. Jomini

I’m not going to bore you with details of the military strategy treatises of von Clausewitz and Jomini. Suffice to say that both are influential to this day in terms of their thinking about conducting military campaigns. Duggan distinguishes the two of them this way:

von Clausewitz focuses on considering the conditions at hand, having one’s mind open to new alternatives and pulling together disparate elements from previous experience to address battlefield situations. Jomini argues for establishing the objective clearly, setting a plan of attack and organizing everything centered around the plan of attack.

From Duggan’s perspective, von Clausewitz’s approach is more in-line with creativity and inspired ideas. This is the important part – that the best ideas cannot be willed into existence. Rather, they occur naturally as a result of combining previous experience and knowledge.

von Clausewitz’s work included four principles related to coup d’ oeil, French for a strike of the eye, a glance. Duggan relies heavily on these four principles throughout the book:

  1. Examples from history. The point here is that there is a wealth of relevant information from the past that is useful for the future. Our minds actually access this information subconsciously.
  2. Presence of mind. As Duggan writes, “You clear your mind of all expectations and previous ideas of what you might do or even what your goal is.” This mental state is important for developing new ideas.
  3. The flash of insight itself. This is something you’ll know. You “see” an idea clearly, one that wasn’t there minutes ago. It probably consumes you for a while. It’s a good thing.
  4. Resolution. It’s one thing to have a great idea. It’s another to execute on it. You have to be ready to follow through on what strategic intuition has given you.

Duggan relates these lessons to Napoleon’s success as a military commander. He later relates them to Bill Gates with Microsoft, and Sergei Brin and Larry Page with Google.

Let’s turn to the Asian philosophy.

Dharma and Karma

I’ve never really studied what karma is about. My level of understanding could be tied to a bumper sticker that says “My karma ran over your dogma” and karma points on Plurk.

Yet Duggan does a masterful job of taking the reader through some basic information about the Asian philosophies of Hindu, Buddhist and Tao. He ultimately settles on the philosophies of Dharma and Karma:

  • Dharma: Your own set of thoughts and actions. These are in your control.
  • Karma: The set of circumstances which you are presented. These are outside your control.

This is where Duggan has a bit of his own flash of insight. He relates the concepts of Dharma and Karma to von Clausewitz’s coup d’ oeil. He references this quote by Napoleon, who was more von Clausewitz than Jomini:

I never truly was my own master but was always ruled by circumstances.

In the Buddhist sense, you “go with the flow” instead of “get what you want”. In both Western and Eastern culture, there is a mysticism or religious aspect to this idea. I don’t think you need to to be particularly spiritual to understand this. We understand that there are circumstances every day that (i) affect us; and (ii)  are outside our control.

Putting This into Practice

In reading this, you can’t help but note the serendipity of the whole thing. There are a set of circumstances that will affect outcomes, and you can’t control them. You will experience flashes of insight, but only based on the prior experiences and knowledge that you happen to have.

It’s here where you really do need to be comfortable with this situation, where Eastern philosophy is useful.  The biggest lesson I take from Duggan’s book is the “presence of mind” principle. The willingness to consider a change in circumstances and see alternatives based on prior ideas that have worked.

The hard part is to drop the well-though out plans you may have for achieving some objective. If you’re seeing success with a plan, then by all means see it through. If you’re not, is it only a problem of poor execution? Or is there something else that should be tried, an idea that emerges from something that is working? Especially in a corporate environment, the ability to just drop a project plan is hard. But empowering employees to follow “what works” relative to a given set of circumstances can be particularly valuable.

Let’s see how this applies to two well-known companies in the sociasl media space, Flickr and Twitter.

Flickr: Leveraging What Works

How many people know that Flickr got its start in a massively multiplayer online game? A company called Ludicorp offered this game, which didn’t really take off in usage. But as a part of that game, a Ludicorp engineer created a tool to upload and share photos on a public page. That particular tool got more response than the game itself did. Ludicorp’s Caterina Fake knew she had something of interest on her hands. She scrapped the online game, and pursued the online photo sharing idea.

Here’s where you really need to consider von Clausewitz vs. Jomini. The Jomini style of strategy would have had Fake continue to push on the multiplayer online game. She had a defined objective, and she had to pursue it come hell or high water.

The von Clausewitz and Dharma/Karma perspectives argue that Fake was being given a great gift. Some small piece in all that Ludicorp work was resonating, it just wasn’t the part they had anticipated. Fake had the presence of mind to recognize this, and to pursue the new idea where it took her.

Twitter: Combining What Works

Interestingly, the roots of Twitter go all the way back to the year 2000. As Steve Parks documents, Jack Dorsey was starting a business at the tail end of the 1990s’ dot com boom. He started a company to dispatch couriers, taxis and emergency services through the web. At the same time, he was an early user of the new LiveJournal blogging service. You can also see that he was aware of AOL’s Instant Messenger application for chatting with friends.

As Dorsey tells it:

One night in July of that year I had an idea to make a more “live” LiveJournal. Real-time, up-to-date, from the road. Akin to updating your AIM status from wherever you are, and sharing it.

He carried this idea around for the next five years, until he had a chance to put it in place as the company for which he worked in 2006, Odeo, was flagging. His idea was coded by Odeo engineers, and Twitter was born.

Professor Duggan places a great emphasis in his book on combining ideas, experience and knowledge from different realms to create something new and compelling. These previous ideas, combined and applied to a new situation, are the fuel for the flash of insight. In von Clausewitz’s approach, these are the “examples from history”.

Look at the influences of Dorsey before he came up with the idea for Twitter in 2000:

  • The need to share statuses easily with multiple people for his dispatch service
  • The self-expression provided by LiveJournal
  • The real-time communication of IM

With these influences, he conceived of Twitter. And look how it came about: “one night in July”. He can remember the specific circumstances and timing when the flash of insight hit him.

What It Means for You and Me

It would be wrong to assume that setting an objective is not relevant in this process. In reading this blog post, it’s possible that one could come away with the thought that you just kind of wait until a flash of insight hits you.

It’s important to distinguish between having an objective, and being unyielding in pursuing the plan to achieve it. It’s another to have an objective, and to have the flexibility to change the plan or even the objective.

I also believe these flashes of insight only come when you’re focused on something. Focus is the catalyst for our minds to piece together different experiences and knowledge, and gives a channel for where insight can emerge.

Personally, I won’t stop establishing objectives and planning for them. But this book has been influential to me in having “presence of mind” in pursuit of these objectives.

*****

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