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An Occasional Newsletter

December 2010
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Steve Hansen


This newsletter offers a collection of insights and information about innovation and product development. The goal, as ever, is to share some of the excitement, the knowledge and the inspiration that has been accumulated recently as The Complete Product team has continued to provide consultancy services, helping businesses add value to their product-to-market process and innovation practice.

I trust you enjoy the newsletter and hope you find some value in the information and ideas that have been collected so they might also help contribute to the success of your own product development endeavors.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you Seasons Greetings. I hope you get to enjoy a break and catch up with friends and family. Thank you very much for the time and consideration that you've given The Complete Product over the past year. I look forward to keeping in touch in 2011 and will welcome any enquiries you may have about assistance that our product-to-market consultancy service could offer.

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Please note that you've received this newsletter because its understood you have an interested in product innovation and service creation. If you prefer not to receive future email newsletters from The Complete Product, please unsubscribe using the link at the end of this email.

Audit-picTry our QuickStart Audit!

An audit is one of the easier and more useful ways to honestly test and quickly qualify your product development performance. An audit can help to identify what is actually working well and pinpoint where there may be opportunity for improvement. The audit provides a picture of those success factors and key areas that will drive better innovation outcomes for the business.

And one critical element of any NPD audit is a best practice review of the key processes and procedures. Over the years repeated case studies and ongoing research[1] continue to point to a consistent set of common attributes that appear to influence success. While these attributes are not the whole recipe for success they are considered to be the most critical ingredients. So to support best practice and to help kick start a healthy innovation review, we have provided a basic 15-point on-line survey that you can complete and submit in confidence to The Complete Product. You will then receive a complementary assessment of your product-to-market process against best-practice.

Take the Best Practice Audit Survey

Just spend a few minutes completing the questionnaire and then submit your assessment to The Compete Product. We will review the scores and provide you with a summary report; all complementary and in complete confidence. The results of this preliminary review can then help you to pin point key strengths and weaknesses by highlighting any priority areas that might be expected to help improve the performance of your new product and service development capability and maximise the value that it generates.

Bootstrap InnovationBootstrap Innovation - Only In A Virtual World
In a recent blog post (by Kathy Harris from Gartner), it was suggested employees who are enthusiastic and committed to innovation, should start a “Grassroots Pilot”. It sounds like an interesting idea but I can’t help wondering if the challenges aligning personal motivations and corporate motivations would just be too much to make this a sustainable model. I’d be very interested in any examples that anyone can share about successful and sustainable Grassroots intrepreneurship.

My observations and experience point to innovation being like the Middle East; what you see depends on your frame of reference. First there is Entrepreneurial innovation, driven by individuals or small teams where the underlying personal motivation is most often change (or "to make a difference”). Second there is (large or small) Corporate innovation which is most often driven by finding or protecting competitive advantage. Here, change is very often an anathema and regarded as a risk to production. Third is Economic innovation where governments and agencies are nobly seeking growth. Often breaking down competitive barriers to new entrants is applauded by economists and change is just an inevitable outcome.

The different frames of reference almost inevitably lead to problems, conflict and misalignment because of the differing motivations. Problems are inevitable where the enthusastic Entrepreneur attempts to lead innovation for the Corporation. Conflict is inevitable where the independant Corporation is left to effect Economic reform. Misalignment is inevitable where the (politically driven) Economy attempts to pick winning innovations.

So the Grassroots pilot sounds fraught. At a minimum (and from any frame of reference) innovation takes courage, and confidence (as Kathy highlights in her blog). Workers who take an independent grassroots initiative, without strategic backing from their employer for such intrepreneurship may be brave and self confident, but they also appear doomed. Sponsorship can be used to mitigate this risk of misalignment. However that necessary integration is still relying on the sometimes accidental advantages of heroic efforts and personal patronage.

While there are a few notable exceptions, today's management is founded on classic principles of a clear hierarchy, alignment to strategies and efficient division of roles and responsibilities. As discussed by Gary Hamel this classic management model may be showing signs that it is not adapting to the newest demands for growth and innovation in the networked world. Perhaps grass-roots pilot would be better replaced by participation in open innovation and the collaborative innovation models promoted by Roberto Verganti.
Read more >>>

Innovation EngineTuning the Innovation Engine
A major issue in achieving and then maintaining successful product development is the challenge of sustaining the optimum blend of spark and fuel that is essential for the innovation engine. Both elements are critical for innovation, but all too often these two key components can become unbalanced effecting performance and sustainability.

Fuel, in the form of commercial resources is essential for any business (including product development). And access to the vital investment resource needed for new innovations and product development is only secured through trust, risk appetite and promised reward. In the corporate environment budget allocations and supporting sponsors are essential in order to setup and maintain the lines of credit that keep the fuel flowing. Because this fuel line is so critical, much of the product development effort then becomes dedicated to protecting that supply line; progress reporting, management compliance, stakeholder engagement and even the delivery milestones and schedules themselves may all defined to protect the fuel supply that is needed for innovation. Investment angels, corporate institutions, the market place and economic forces all control the fuel supply and so they get to define the rules for its access, including its rationing, use and refueling options.

However the spark critical for successful innovation is very different from the fuel. This other key component has very human characteristics that are expressed through creative invention, initiative, thought and insight. Within a commercial business environment people recognise talent selection & development, challenge & opportunity plus work culture & rewards are among the more important elements essential to maintaining their innovative spark. Almost because these are “soft” elements of the business their implementation can become less formal and dependant on local management style. With the level of people’s engagement in sparking innovation more driven by management style rather than management controls there is considerable scope for variation in the size and impact of the innovation spark.

So how to maintain the balance for a high performance innovation engine? First by being aware that there are actually two, sometimes opposed, forces driving your innovation engine. They are both necessary but sometimes they need to be protected from each other. Second by controlling where and how those two components come together. Neither should dominate and both should be managed according to their separate characteristics. Third, by recognising that tuning for the optimum performance needs balance and timing rather than simply opening the inlets and turning up the current.

It is hoped that this provides at least some small contribution to help the cause of better innovation.

We're interested in feedback and views to help achieve better product development. Please contact us to share your views and thoughts.
Read more >>>

Design For The Other 90%
A challenging exhibition has been arranged by the Smithsonian showcasing innovative design solutions for third world and other disadvantaged people. It highlights the massive contribution made by some highly exceptional product innovations while also recognising that most modern product development still remains limited to only 10% of the world.
Read more >>>
Open Source Research.
A recent article from the NYT mentions a paper published in Nature with 56,000 co-authors. This serves to hight light the mainstream role of opensource innovation and invention. And extending this same theme to help with the search for the accurate shape of proteins an on-line gaming community Foldit (another open source innovation community) was established and has grown dramatically to help drive forward the science of protein folding.
Read more >>>
Patent ruling creates disagreement
A recent ruling by the US Justice Department has declared that human and other genes are not patentable, reversing what had been government policy for decades. The result has been strong reactions and uncertainty. Even the Patent Office itself has chosen to 'maintain the status quo while this matter is pending resolution' by appeal courts. The case seems to highlight increasing tensions and uncertain boundaries for pure patent protection systems as technology expands further into human and social domains. An interesting study published last year showed in fact that a commons system, in which no patent protection is available, may actually result in increased innovation, productivity, and greater benefit to society.
Read more >>>
What major internet trends should you be aware of?
A fascinating presentation by Mary Meeker (Morgan Stanley) reviewing 10 key questions if you and your business use the web. Some of the interesting facts: (1) With 5 countries China, USA, Brazil, India & Russia accounting for 952M vibrant active web users do you know what innovations they are using or new products they are bringing to market? (2) By 2012 smartphones (rather than PCs) will dominate internet access, (3) Established social ecosystems are demonstrating rates of continual innovative growth and expansion that have never seen before in the history of technology, (4) The gap in spend on web advertising compared to other media (for eye balls, hours and brand recognition) represents a $50B vacuum, (5) In the US, 37% of web traffic during traditional TV hours is streaming video and every minute another 35hrs of video content is being added to YouTube. So three ideas to ponder: (1) mobile (more connected, more affordable, faster, easier, more fun, more access, with longer battery life), (2) innovative (even the incumbients are displaying exceptionally high levels of new innovation) and (3) disruptive (coined by Clay Christensen) strategies for competing outside the square.
Read more >>>
History lessons about disruptive innovation.
This story is from an account in The Master Switch by Tim Wu concerning an invention made in 1934 by Clarence Hickman (a Bell Labs engineer). He built a large prototype device connected to his telephone that allowed unanswered callers to hear a beep and connect to a recording device where they could leave a message. This was the advent of not just the first telephone answering machine, but also the first magnetic storage tape. However these innovations were not to be brought to market together until the 1990's. Apparently executive concern about the potential impact on telephone sales and user experience meant work on this new invention was closed down by AT&T and lost to the archives for over 60 years. The lesson from this and many other examples is that "invention begets industry and industry begets empire—a progress often blessed by government, typically with stifling consequences for free expression and technical innovation"
Read more >>>
Survey highlights a critical gap in innovation practice
In a recent survey of Fortune 1000 executives 95% of respondents said enterprise innovation is very or extremely important in driving business growth, profitability and value. But about 50% also reported they had no formal innovation process, did not focus enough on enterprise innovation and did not have any teams, processes or system for vetting new ideas to help priorities their investment. The barriers blamed for creating this gap in enterprise innovation included pressures to achieve short-term goals, greater priority given to other goals and a lack of incentives to inspire or reward enterprise innovation. The conclusion is that unfortunately for many innovation has become a platitude.
Read more >>>
Who says phone companies can't be inspiring
We thought this YouTube clip was worth sharing just because it brought a smile to our faces and because it highlights the remarkable results that can be achieved by thinking (and acting) in unexpected ways.
Read more >>>
and from the interesting fact file.
"According to Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, by the end of 2010, 90 percent of the world's scientists and engineers with advanced degrees will live in Asia; while 80 percent of the people being trained in the advanced physical sciences in the United States will be from abroad."
Read more >>>
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