Running an Innovation Program, Step by Step
By Ann Augustine, About.com Guide
Review of Step by Step Innovation:
Few people succeed at innovation continuously but most would love to know how.
Ask John Gabrick, CEO of MindMatters Technologies, Inc., developers of innovation management software, who has spent several decades cultivating a formula for running an innovation program and ensuring success. As a pioneer in innovation and intellectual property, Gabrick has been instrumental in implementing innovation processes for 3M, Johnson & Johnson, and others.
Sharing what works and what doesn’t work in this field has become Gabrick’s personal mission, so he decided to share this sought after methodology in his book, Step by Step Innovation. Gabrick cleverly crafts a story around a modern day business predicament–overcoming obstacles and making commitments to innovation–which Gabrick does quite well, while guiding leaders step by step.
Gabrick describes his early attempts likened to an experiment–uncovering a new product that had been dormant and commercializing it, which went on to generate forty million dollars in new revenue. And there are other examples.
The Business Story:
The circumstances of Gabrick’s fictional business story is of a technology company, Medacmet Industries besieged by a competitor who has just registered a small ownership stake. Medacmet’s CEO, Bill Smith is alarmed yet confident the company will “come out of this” alive. Along comes John Jones, Manager of the Technical Products Division, whose mission is to save the company. Jones gets the attention of the CEO, “We haven’t had a truly original product in over six years.” Jones reveals he has a plan.
Because innovation means something different to everyone, perhaps a means of lowering costs, becoming more efficient, or creating more innovation products, there has to be an innovation business process. In research, according to Jones, organizations that have an innovation process far outpace their competitors that don’t, including as much as 3-5 times greater profit growth.
Companies that stop R&D programs will also call off opportunities for people to grow and create, Jones points out. The CEO disagrees on the premise there is no time and he needs results yesterday.
Jones walks Smith through case studies done at other organizations to generate innovative ideas, which he suggests is not difficult since “70 percent or more of new ideas come from the people who actually do the work.” But Jones tells the CEO straight out, “strong management support is the first requirement.” Jones lays out a six-week plan to kick off Medacmet’s innovation process encompassing strong innovation challenges, the kind of familiar problems people would already be working on.
The Business Case:
As Jones was able to get through the toughest part–commitment from the CEO–he would also need consensus from other executives, particularly the VP of Engineering, Cindy Vinatoni, who is hard to convince. Because Vinatoni thinks of research requiring many resources and time span to come up with new innovative product, Jones shows Vinatoni that sometimes revolutionary products can come from off-the-shelf components, as Jones suggests, the ‘chocolate and peanut butter’ idea.
Through much debate, Jones and Vinatoni agree to work on a current challenge, an area of opportunity that is costing the company five million dollars to implement and Jones feels it can be done at a fraction of the cost and timeframe.
Jones gains consensus among other executives, including the IT director, in understanding the plan to use a third-party software application to facilitate the innovation process. Furthermore, Jones has a strong case for intellectual property support that could create an unbeatable competitive barrier. In fact, the omission of proper documentation had caused Medacmet to lose a lawsuit because it couldn’t prove an inventor actually invented a particular product in question.
With such a depth of knowledge in intellectual property, Gabrick writes in Step by Step Innovation that Medacmet would have to frame the challenges in such a way to avoid infringing on other company’s patents. Surely the intensive concern for patent infringement would be a lesson learned for anyone that has been through exhaustive litigation and its damages.
Uncovering New Challenges:
The Medacmet innovation process begins to take shape as the entire organization becomes involved and collaborative, including marketing’s support for the company’s first challenge. By providing customer’s usability feedback and concerns, marketing also sees the potential to create new challenges that would uncover customer-related requirements.
All in all, as the process continues to be worked out, Jones takes the reader on a journey, like the innovation process itself. From the capture period where an organization measures the effective number of ideas, typically located in small pockets of an organization, Gabrick writes, “The key is finding these areas and promoting their success throughout other areas of the organization.” The book is also the basis of MindMatters Technologies innovation management program.
The Medacmet story has a compelling outcome that you don’t want to miss–you will find it is adaptable for others using techniques described in Step by Step Innovation.
For more information contact:MindMatters Technologies, Inc.
308 East Main Street
Carnegie, PA 15106
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John Stowell, Director of Innovation, Zep Inc.
"StageTrak is very customizable to your needs. Once it's up and running it's pretty intuitive. It's much simpler to operate than most of its competitors."
"We avoided $750,000 in cost in North American alone last year because we're being more selective and going after better intellectual property."
"Flagpole offers novel social marketing techniques to partner and collaborate with the National Poison Control Center community."
Tom Mauss, Chief Executive Officer
"We were impressed with MindMatters’ entire Step by Step Innovation process. They helped us identify areas where we might fail, and successfully navigated around those obstacles."
"Our R&D idea submissions have tripled over the whole of the previous year."
Gregg Edwards, Chief People Officer
"Allows us to not only capitalize on the brilliance of our employees, but also to collaborate on organizational issues in a much more engaging, satisfying way."
Director of R&D
"The MindMatters software has really worked out for our team. It has enabled us to develop a process that effectively mines the innovative thoughts of R&D. Our invention disclosure count is through the roof compared to pre-MindMatters numbers."
In 2002, 8,254 civil cases related to intellectual property theft were filed in U.S. courts.
U.S. Department of Justice
The fastest-growing U.S. companies tend to foster innovation.
Harnessing Innovation, PriceWaterhouse Coopers
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
All told, 69 percent of the executives who participated ranked innovation as one of their company’s top-three strategic priorities.
Boston Consulting Group Survey
Intellect and innovation are the sources of virtually all economic value, growth, and strategic edge today.
James Brian Quinn, Professor of Management, Dartmouth College
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Dr. Alan Kay, Disney Imagineering
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