The Role of Innovation Platforms

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Oct 20, 2016

Effective innovation requires effective communication. We discussed what information is required to be communicated, by whom, and when, during our #innochat discussion last week on “Innovation communication”. This week, let's discuss the benefits of available communication facilities inspired by @Brightidea's #Synthesize conference and the cases and results reported there.

Communication is essential for innovation

The importance of communication for effective innovation was discussed last week. The subject of the discussion was captured by Saul Kaplan’s tweet: “Innovation communication channels have to 1) be flipped from push to pull and 2) permeate boundaries both in/out of orgs.”  

But, existing communication channels are not well suited to innovation. Within established enterprises, there are long standing organizational and communication structures. These can take widely differing forms in different enterprises.  These provide a variety of types of communication and a range of channels.

However, in most organizations, none or few of them are well suitable for the  communication required to support innovation.

Innovation requires better and different communication between people inside and outside the organization, the division, the enterprise, including with the customers, suppliers and partners.

Innovation communication has advanced

In recent years, new communication facilities, including some designed specifically to support innovation, have provided channels which are better suited to innovation activities.

Newer innovation platforms provide additional communication facilities and structures based on challenges, and ideas which span groups of people who are not necessarily related to the main organizational structures in many enterprises.

Conferences such as @Brightidea's #Synthesize conference give us the opportunity to learn about the extent of the application of these facilities, the value they bring, and the pace at which they have been applied in recent years, and how they are continuing to be applied in many enterprises.

This aspect of the management of innovation may not be widely known or appreciated by some people who discuss innovation. The success that innovation program managers are reporting is testament to the dedication that pioneers (in Brightidea’s case: Matt Greeley and Vincent Carbone in the early days of the company, 17 years ago) showed to the objective of enabling people to share ideas, to discuss them and to manage the evaluation and exploitation of them. 

This is providing the infrastructural backbone for innovation efforts in many enterprises and yielding concrete evidence of the reality and value of innovation in those organizations.

Effectiveness of innovation platforms

The long experience of Brightidea customers (some well over 10 years) and the benefits that they report are demonstrating the success of their approach.

Some of their enterprise customers have used the system for well over ten years. Over 1.5 million people are users of the Brightidea system and customers report over $250Million of business impact from innovations that flowed through that system.

Presentations

Here are some of the presentations at the #Synthesize conference:

Matt Greeley, Brightidea CEO

Kevin Kelly

Steve Healey, BT (British Telecom)

Genevieve Wang, Brightidea VP of Product

Effect on the organization of innovation

One of the most interesting aspects, at a larger scale level, is the variety of organizational structures, especially the emergence of separate innovation program office entities separate from any specific division which provide support and facilities for innovation projects.

There are a variety of models for innovation functions within organisations, including such disparate models as centralised R&D/innovation labs, or operating divisions going it alone with their own initiatives. But the most successful model appears to be a group of specialists, who provide support for multiple initiatives in specific areas of the enterprise. These innovation program managers already know the issues that innovation project leaders will face, can provide models and advice on numerous corporate issues ranging from human resources, to intellectual property, and compensation, as well as already having researched, selected and set up the communication facilities required as platforms to operated the projects.

Innovation program managers are supporting innovation project managers with provision of advice, guidance and processes. They provide experience of setting up and running projects, and capabilities to operate those projects on available platforms, including licences to platforms, relationships with vendors and familiarity with vendor services. All this makes the management of an innovation project much quicker to set up and easier to operate than trying to do it all alone without a platform, or getting up to speed on a new platform for the purposes of one project. 

Discussion

During #innochat October 20, 2016 at 12noon Eastern time on Twitter, let’s discuss the effectiveness of innovation platforms which provide communication facilities dedicated to enabling, supporting and encouraging innovation.

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