Category Archives: Product Innovation

Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“50% of US executives and 39% of European executives said budget constraints were the primary hurdle in turning Big Data into a profitable business asset. Rounding out the top 5 challenges were data security concerns, integration challenges, lack of technical expertise, and proliferation of data silos.” (Capgemini)

“The biggest challenges companies face when implementing Big Data are budget constraints” (Capgemini)

Data analytics is continuously evolving as AI and machine learning applications get faster and smarter. The benefits that may be gained by analyzing massive data sets identifying in seconds patterns, signals, and relationships between nonaligned and aligned areas is intoxicating for savvy companies seeking to innovate. We recognize that companies can make faster and better decisions with strong analytic teams interpreting the findings. Look at what information-driven analytics has done already in cool improvements around us. There are so many good examples of this. Take transportation systems, the use of information analytics to course vehicles round congested areas in actual time is one simple example. Another, that literally may have saved the restaurant industry during the pandemic, is meals delivery services which depend on data collected to forecast demand on menu items, key order times, navigation around cities and streets not to mentioned detailed knowledge individual’s meal preferences. Data helped to optimize driving routes for more efficient delivers.

As data analytics becomes more sophisticated, we might anticipate revolutionary disruptions. However, economists report spending greater funds per capita on research, yet there is a significant decline in rate of successful innovation output. One motive for this could be that we are mistakenly focusing an excessive amount of on R&D instead of on innovation output which takes exceptional justification, funding, and resources. What does data analytics have to do with innovation? Everything! Research is crucial but just one part of a puzzle for developing new products and services. Today, innovation requires a sophistication in data analytics interpretation. There’s also a need for the curiosity, for human evaluation and a bit of intuition and intelligence. Companies need an astute cleverness like no other time in history and an ingenious approach to taking research and turning it into something new and worthwhile.  The process must be diligent, but it must also be agile. Too frequently, organizations get bogged down within the details of research and improvement, without truly questioning outside the boundaries of a container process. As a result, we have delays in the process often stalling out for lack of resource allocations. Even worse, companies not focusing on deep understanding of their data may misinterpret the analytics leaving more to chance that to solid pathways.

It’s worth saying, placing a greater emphasis on creativity and innovation is imperative vs. traditional research and improvement methods. As is deeply dissecting the data in your business. Where does all that data live? What are the hidden signals of the data, what types of converging uses (products/solutions) could you turn that data into?

We are in an era of new growth. Poll your customers! They are changing rapidly and challenged with keeping up with the speed of change but know they must. Where are they doubling down their efforts? How well do they understand their own data? What products and services are they developing, who are they collaborating with and a better question, why are you collaborating with them to innovate around their future needs? Are they investing in developing a more tech and analytic savvy organization? Better question, is your company?

As cliché as it is data is the new oil. Data will be producing its own data (it’s happening today) known as synthetic data. According to Gartner, “By 2025, synthetic data will reduce personal customer data collection, avoiding 70% of privacy violation sanctions.” This begs to question the emphasis companies are placing on developing the skills sets of the organization around analytics and data. And simply put, as oil has an expansive array of products and uses, we’re now in an era of inventing new energy sources to reduce even eliminate dependencies on oil. How might data fit into the effort to transform these dependencies? Data is essential for electric and autonomous vehicle development. Innovative companies are undertaking long tail efforts to drive the next generation of IoE (Internet of everything). Data is the fuel. Let’s explore four ways that organizations can use records analytics to power innovation and stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Design new products that think for themselves: understanding data from a variety of sources may trigger new types of needs and possible new products that could be developed. For example: understanding water needs for new smart and innovative cities being designed takes enormous planning. A partner to Plazabridge Group, designs digital twin environments for the water sector. Cites like Singapore, Houston, Dubai, must anticipate the growing needs for water and plan design and building based on anticipated needs but also, they must plan for worst- and best-case scenarios. They must plan for leakage, or contamination or other possible scenarios that may impact water supplies. Digital twinning these environments is the most cost-effective way to simulate new innovative methods. Leveraging as much data as possible as well as generating newly created synthetic data cities can plan more economically, they can execute faster and prepare for events that may occur. Understanding these models around water, suppliers may produce products that help cities build these digital environments. Not just for water systems but for any part of businesses today; manufacturing, facilities management, construction…
  2. Not all innovation has to be moonshot inventions. Simply identify unmet wishes of customers, consumers or the market creating engaging products and services. UBER goes from just carting us around leveraging an incredible inventive back in logistics infrastructure to launch UBER eats! Why not, the drivers are already out and about, the data collected indicates the most popular spots riders go to for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks… UBER analysts have vast information on customer interests in turn turned from few riders during a pandemic to delivering food as an essential business during the pandemic. A pivot turns into a scalable source of augmented revenue as the shelter lifts and people get back to riding.
  3. So much opportunity exists to improve customer engagement: records analytics can assist businesses to better understand their clients and their wishes. This expertise can then be used to improve customer service and support future-proofing your business.
  4. Extend efficiency: data crunching algorithms, digital twinning, AR/VR simulations and access to remote experts will help corporations to streamline their operations, digitally transforming themselves for greater efficiency. This increased efficiency can lead to price savings, which can be reinvested in innovation.“90% of CEOs believe the digital economy will impact their industry, but less than 15% are executing on a digital strategy.”

— MIT Sloan and Capgemini. Seek out experts and industry mentors to help your organization make these shifts. We often fear what we cannot see, the beautiful thing about the digital world is you can build a virtual environment visualizing the unseen, and plan for all types of scenarios. A model we developed (not dependent on virtual or digital anything in fact) at Plazabridge Group is around the CIA’s The Phoenix Checklist. Strategies for Regenerating is our formula for going deep into understanding problems, future opportunities, needs, anticipating deeply the “What ifs” of every possible scenario.  When done leveraging data and analytics the possibilities become endless.

Original Article

Image credits: Pixabay

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Food Innovation Sighting – Probiotic Chocolate

Food Innovation Sighting - Probiotic Chocolate

I came across the inspiration for this latest food innovation sighting through a London Business School announcement of their upcoming TELL Series speakers, and noticing that Nancy Cruickshank, co-Founder of MyShowcase would be speaking on May 21, 2014.

Clicking over to the web site, I noticed that one of the highlighted products was Ohso Probiotic Chocolate which Andrew Marten brands as a healthy chocolate.

“Ohso Probiotic Chocolate is, quite frankly, the best invention since sliced bread. A delicious dark Belgian chocolate, it contains over a billion friendly bacteria per mini bar. If you love dark chocolate, you will love Ohso. And it loves you back, because as well as tasting divine it promotes your wellbeing via your gut.”

Apparently chocolate helps probiotics survive the journey to the gut where they can do some good and potentially help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers.

Who knew?

So, here’s the question…

Innovation or not?


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Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Last week GE and Quirky announced a new partnership where GE will make some of its library of patents available as part of Quirky’s new inspiration platform, allowing inventors to use some of its patents in their potentially novel consumer product invention ideas. This on its surface is a very interesting and logical open innovation partnership. Some people are talking about it as a crowdsourcing partnership, but it isn’t really because the work product is not well-defined and being sourced from multiple competing providers. No, this is an open innovation partnership.

Here is the Quirky and GE partnership announcement video:



It is very interesting to me that GE chose to partner with Quirky and not someone like Innocentive, NineSigma, Idea Connection or someone else. I’m curious what others think this indicates about the future of these firms. Personally, I think that this is something that Quirky is better equipped to make happen than these other firms, and that Innocentive and others still fill an important need using a completely different approach (challenge-driven innovation).

Is GE Trying to be Too Quirky?

Whether or not GE creates any sizable new businesses from their participation in this partnership, I still think this is a brilliant marketing move by Beth and her team and it will be interesting to see whether any impactful inventions come from people leveraging GE’s patent portfolio.

Here is Quirky’s video announcing their inspiration platform (which they raised $68 million to help build):



There is one thing that bugs me a wee bit about Quirky. My tagline since 2006 has been “Making innovation insights accessible for the greater good” and it feels like they’ve swiped it to create theirs – “Making invention accessible.” Surely as creative people they could have invented their own tagline instead of swiping mine. 😉 (wink)

But, there is another idea of mine trapped in this announcement that I’d like to highlight and set free, and that is the idea that innovation is not just about ideas, but that other factors are equally important – including inspiration, investigation, and iteration. These are captured in my incredibly popular Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation framework.

Eight I's of Infinite Innovation

Be sure and follow this article link to the Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation if you missed the link above, or if you’re not clicking away to learn more, here is a quick list of the eight stages:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Investigation
  3. Ideation
  4. Iteration
  5. Identification
  6. Implementation
  7. Illumination
  8. Installation

Personally I don’t think their platform appears to go far enough to deliver inspiration or to empower investigation, and as a software and internet guy I would be happy to help Quirky and GE strengthen the solution if they’re interested in making this platform more successful.

Will any successful innovations come out of this GE and Quirky partnership?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Image credits: GE, Quirky


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Optimizing Innovation Resonance

Optimizing Innovation ResonanceWhat does resonance mean to you?

The word has many different dictionary definitions depending on the context, but most of them focus on vibrations reaching an ideal state.

Here are two of the most relevant dictionary definitions for our innovation resonance context today:

  • “a quality of evoking response” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “the effect of an event or work of art beyond its immediate or surface meaning” (Bing)

Here also are a couple of my favorite resonance quotes:

  • “I think whatever resonance I may be able to achieve is in part simply from the amount of reading and learning that I acquired along the way.” – Robert B. Parker
  • “I think if the movie has resonance and stimulates the viewer to talk about it, you can have as large an audience as you want.” – Andy Garcia

I’ve written in the past about how innovation is all about value and about how innovation veracity is more important than innovation velocity. Now it is time to take the innovation conversations about value and veracity to the next level – to innovation resonance – and how difficult it is to achieve and maintain.

Optimizing Innovation ResonanceAchieving innovation resonance is about going from 1+1=2 to a state where 1+1+1+1=7, where the sum of the valuable parts in some new potential innovation suddenly becomes greater than the individual components and value may be created that you might not have even anticipated. When you reach this state of innovation nirvana, the power of resonance pushes your invention over the line from invention to innovation, and adoption becomes widespread. People start talking about, spreading it like a virus, and ultimately supplementing your marketing efforts in much more effective ways.

To achieve innovation resonance you must create value with innovation veracity and deliver it in a product or service with the right velocity and course corrections as you bring your potential innovation into the marketplace. Innovation veracity is about identifying the truths that are important to the customer in the problem space you are investigating, the inspirations and the insights that will hopefully lead to better ideas, more value creation, and hopefully, eventually – innovation resonance.

You’ll notice that I used the words hopefully and eventually in the last sentence in relation to achieving innovation resonance, and this is because our best attempts to anticipate the wants and needs of the marketplace will not always be immediately correct, and may require course corrections in the product or service to better match the expected or desired value.

And the ultimate value encompassed in a potential innovation attempting to achieve resonance, comes from three main sources:

1. Value Creation
2. Value Access
3. Value Translation

Innovation = Value Creation * Value Access * Value Translation

You’ll notice in this equation that the parts multiply, and as a result if you do any of the three badly, your potential innovation will fail. But do ALL three well and you will have the opportunity to achieve innovation resonance.

Innovation Resonance Venn Diagram

Optimizing Innovation Resonance

To optimize the value creation component of innovation, you must seek innovation veracity early on, identifying the fundamental truths upon which your potentially innovative solution will be built. During the value creation process you must prototype early and often to test and learn whether your insights are correct and resonating in their expression within the product or service as you expect. From the reactions to your prototypes you must evolve the solution to create more value.

To optimize the value access piece of innovation, you must seek to identify where friction is created in the delivery of your solution and seek to remove it. Carefully observe both where things are awkward or difficult for you to produce and scale the solution, and for your customer to consider and consume it. These friction points represent an opportunity to remove barriers to adoption and to increase potential innovation resonance through better production, purchase and consumption experiences.

To optimize the value translation piece of innovation, you must first identify the gaps in understanding and readiness among your target customers, your plan for working to close these gaps and prepare the market for your launch, and then you’ll want to find your picture or image that communicates a thousand words. Most importantly, you must be aware that the more disruptive your potential innovation the more you may have to educate your potential customers before you even try to sell to them, and so you must build the appropriate amount of market preparation time into the launch plan for your potential innovation plan. Thought leadership marketing and innovation marketing strategies can be very powerful here to help customers understand how the new solution will fit into their lives and why they will want to abandon their existing solution – even if it is the ‘do nothing’ solution.

Resonance Example #1 – The BMW Mini – Barbie in Motion

Barbie Mini CooperOne of those most fun, visually appealing vehicles on the road has to be BMW’s re-release of the Mini. I don’t have one, have only ridden in one once, but whenever I see one driving around, it makes me smile. And if you have any question about whether or not the Mini has achieved a level of resonance (at least in the USA and probably elsewhere), then how would you explain the photo of the Mini on the left that shows you can buy a Mini to drive Ken and Barbie around in? Can you buy a convertible Chrysler LeBaron for Barbie to drive around in? No, but you can buy a Fiat 500, another car achieving resonance here in the USA.

Resonance Example #2 – iPod Nano – Falling from the Pinnacle

iPod Nano 6th GenerationThe iPod Nano is a great example of the rise and fall of innovation resonance. The iPod took three years to take off (right about the time the iPod Nano was released). The trigger for innovation resonance was the Windows version of iTunes (Value Creation), combined with the launch of Apple Retail Stores (Value Access), combined with the iconic advertising campaigns (Value Translation). The iPod became a phenomenon with sales peaking in 2008 right after the iPhone release. Sales have been falling since then, but during this decline came the September 2010 release of the 6th Generation iPod Nano – which resonates to this day – so much so that Apple replaced the design six months ago to protect the market for their upcoming iWatch.

Maintaining Innovation Resonance

As we know from music, to maintain resonance, you must continue to inject energy and focus into the system – a bell won’t ring forever. And as we know from human psychology, just because you continue to ring the bell doesn’t mean that people will continue to want to listen to it in the same way forever. Tastes change, preferences change, the definition of value for each component creating value for customers can potentially change. And so to remain the market leader, to maintain innovation resonance, you must continue to observe, to learn, and to modify your solution to optimize the innovation value equation as needed over time.

One great example of an innovative organization losing resonance over time was Dell. They (and a handful others) came into the PC marketplace with a disruptive business model, captured market share, rose to #1, and then gradually started to lose their position because they didn’t recognize a shift in the relative value of cost vs. design in the marketplace, causing them to lose market share to HP, Apple and others.

One way to look at the difference in strategies between HP and Dell might be to use the Strategy Canvas from the Blue Ocean Strategy methodology. You can see an example of a Strategy Canvas for the wine industry here:

Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas

But traditional Blue Ocean Strategy (or Value Innovation) is very static. As you can see, building a Strategy Canvas using Blue Ocean Strategy methods is a snapshot in time looking at the relative performance of a company on a selected set of value dimensions against its competition. To sail into a Blue Ocean the theory goes, you must select certain value dimensions to either:

  1. Raise
  2. Eliminate
  3. Reduce
  4. Create

But as we know, value dimension performance, value dimension importance, and the competitive dynamics within the industry are not static, but change over time.

It is because of this weakness in the Blue Ocean Strategy methodology that I layer on the investigation of value dimension performance and importance onto any Value Innovation work that I might do. You can see in the two example images below related to the Dell vs. HP example about how changes in performance over time on certain value dimensions relative to what is “good enough” in the minds of customers can lead to changes in the relative importance of various value dimensions in the mind of the customers.

Value Dimension Performance Value Dimension Importance

Because we cannot perfectly predict how customers will consume our product or service when we bring it to market, and because of the shifting sands of value force you to continuously re-evaluate the current situation with value dimensions and value importance, we must re-evaluate where we see the innovation process beginning and ending. Smart companies are recognizing that is not just about coming up with a great idea, or having a great launch, but about creating a commitment to launching, learning, and dialing in success by working to create and then maintain innovation resonance. Whirlpool Corporation, one of the early pioneers of a systematic pursuit of innovation excellence, has seen this and has created a commitment to launching and learning and has added a third diamond to their double diamond innovation methodology called ‘Deliver and Grow’.

Whirlpool Triple Diamond Process

Moises Norena, the Global Director of Innovation at the Whirlpool Corporation, was kind enough to share these thoughts:

“While we put a significant emphasis in the front end of innovation and in the commercialization phase, we recognize that you can not launch a product and sit and wait for its success. With the third diamond we assure that innovation teams stay engaged in the product management while it is in the market, contrasting the results with the predictions, not only on business performance but against the consumer and trade promise they were designed to deliver. We also ask these teams to use the innovation tools and process to identify opportunities to experiment and to maximize value extraction from the market.”

Conclusion

To achieve and maintain innovation resonance, you must nurture a commitment to learning fast, both during the innovation development process and after the launch of a potential innovation. You must maintain a laser focus on how you are creating value, helping people access that value, and translating that value for people so they can understand how your potential innovation may fit into their lives. So, do you have processes in place as part of your innovation methodology for measuring and evolving solutions in place to help you get to innovation resonance?

If not, keep a focus on value creation, value access, and value translation, use my evolutions of the Blue Ocean Strategy framework, and have a look at The Eight I’s of Infinite Innovation framework that I created or at the Whirlpool Corporation’s Triple Diamond methodology to help you deliver and grow more successful innovation into your organization, and hopefully reach some level of innovation resonance.


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Using Gravity to Save and Improve Lives

Using Gravity to Save and Improve Lives

I came across an IndieGogo project that is focused on building and trialing a gravity-powered power station that can serve either as a lantern or as a flexible power source that can be used to power a task light, recharge batteries, or potentially other things that users might dream up that the designers can’t yet imagine.

Check out their video from IndieGogo:

They have already raised FIVE TIMES the money they set out to raise on IndieGogo.

I found it interesting in their promotional video that initially they started with a design challenge of designing a system that would charge a light for indoor use using a solar panel, but that they decided to abandon the approach specified from the outset and pursue alternate power sources.

Also interesting from the IndieGogo project page are the following facts:

The World Bank estimates that, as a result, 780 million women and children inhale smoke which is equivalent to smoking 2 packets of cigarettes every day. 60% of adult, female lung-cancer victims in developing nations are non-smokers. The fumes also cause eye infections and cataracts, but burning kerosene is also more immediately dangerous: 2.5 million people a year, in India alone, suffer severe burns from overturned kerosene lamps. Burning Kerosene also comes with a financial burden: kerosene for lighting ALONE can consume 10 to 20% of a household’s income. This burden traps people in a permanent state of subsistence living, buying cupfuls of fuel for their daily needs, as and when they can.

The burning of Kerosene for lighting also produces 244 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide annually.

So, what do you think, a meaningful innovation or an interesting but impractical invention?

More information available on their web site here.


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Innovation Ripe for the Plucking

Innovation Ripe for the PluckingToo often we all run around trying to pluck a gamechanging idea out of thin air that nobody has ever seen, solving a problem that has never been solved, when really if the truth be told, there are still lots of existing problems with lots of solutions that are still waiting for a simple, elegant solution.

Is Quirky’s new ‘Pluck’ one of those simple, elegant solutions that you wish you had thought of? Are there other products that do this job better. Are you jealous of the margins they are likely to earn on such a simple product (assuming people are willing to pay the $12.99 asking price)?

Well, whatever you think, the Pluck is a great example of how innovation can come from the simple just as much as it can come from the complex, because innovation after all is about transforming the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative – and then making the result widely adopted.

So, are you overcomplicating things in your search for innovation?

Moral of the story – Don’t be afraid to break a few eggs in your quest for innovation.


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Apple Touches on a Potential Innovation Integration

Apple Touches on a Potential Innovation Integration

Recently Apple announced its intention to acquire Authentec, a biometric authentication company. Apple was in a real hurry to complete the acquisition and it makes you wonder whether Authentec’s fingerprint authentication technology will make it into the home button of the iPhone 5 and possibly the iPad Mini in the coming months.

If Apple were to integrate the Authentec technology into the home button on the iPhone 5, the iPad Mini, and eventually the iPad 4, then it would not only create a handy way to make the devices easily personalized for multiple users of the same device (or just a simple password-free login for a single user), but purportedly the technology also has the ability to recognize multiple fingers (allowing for the home button to potentially achieve multiple functions), and to serve as authentication for mobile payments (most likely via NFC – Near Field Communications).

That would mean that Apple would add a lot of new functionality with the integration of this tiny piece of hardware, several software updates, and another tiny piece of hardware for NFC. But more importantly, these tiny pieces of hardware and software could make the computing experience more personal, and more naturally personalized as you move around the environment into different applications.

I know it is only a replacement for what could or can be done with a password, but I would love to be able to have apps like Netflix personalized based on whose finger was used.

This could become a great example of flexible design and innovating for the future present if they launch the iPhone 5 with these technologies. That would show that they started the design process with this as only a possibility but decided AFTER the technology looked ready to actually integrate it into the shipping product, and remained flexible enough to integrate the component near the end of the design process – something that is very hard to do, but very powerful.

Are all of these potential innovations ranging from the minor (login) to the transformative (speeding up mobile payment adoption) likely to make the cut for the iPhone 5?

I guess we will wait and see what happens on September 12th.

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