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My Half Time Pep Talk for 2009

As part of the 24 hours of Innovation I was asked to give my half time pep talk for 2009 as it relates to Innovation. Innovation being a long time passion of mine, it was hard for me to distill my thoughts in two or three key points. All that being said, here we go – please let me know your thoughts.

1. Innovation and social media

Social media can provide unbelievable benefits when it comes down to innovation, and I believe that we will see an increasing number of companies who will achieve breakthrough innovations because of the advent of social media. Those who will be most successful will be those who realize that social media is not a new channel through which you source ideas, but rather a platform that allows the social that makes us humans to scale. They are the ones who will manage to tap into the human reciprocity reflex which drives us to help one another.

At the same time that I am enthusiastic about the potential of increased innovation in this social media age, I am also worried that some companies will put too much faith in this amplified voice of the customer. Doing so could result into marginal innovations and loss of competitiveness, as for some product categories, customers just do not care enough about the product to give you meaningful feedback and suggestions.

2. Successful innovators will tap the power of all their employees

Ok, so this may not be categorized as clairvoyant, but in reality there are very few companies that have been able to move beyond the virtualized suggestion box for new ideas.

I think we will see two types of internal innovation mechanisms – communities and marketplaces. Best Buy, whose CMO Barry Judge I interviewed as part of my regular CMO 2.0 conversations, is an example of a company that took a community approach through their well documented Blue Shirt Nation community of employees. GE, whose Global CMO Beth Comstock I also interviewed as part of that same series, took more of a venture based marketplace approach.

Obviously both approaches can yield results and in some cases, as with the Cisco iPrize example, which started out as a venture-based process and ended up in a community, it is hard to distinguish the two. All that being said it will be interesting to see if one is better than the other for certain types of innovation.

3. We need different thinking in order to avoid 80% new product failures

Many companies are doing the exact same thing as they used to do before the internet and social media – except that they are now doing them online. They run focus groups, they do online market research based on individual characteristics of random individuals or their champions, and they think they do persona based and ethnography based product design.

And they still get 80% failure rates.

What they don’t realize is that they now can observe the impact of group behavior in the buying process, not just individual behavior. They forget that they can now involve their detractors in the new product innovation process without having them become the tyranny of the minority. And they overlook the fact that they now can use their communities, internal and external, to kill dogs in their new product innovation pipeline faster – thus freeing up resources for the more promising innovations which would otherwise go under-resourced.

That’s it for me. I want to thank the organizers of the 24 hours of innovations to allow me to be part of this exinting, especially fellow Belgian Philippe De Ridder, and I look forward to your comments.

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