Live from the Front End conference Update 2 May 23 8:30pm
There's a sense of anticipation in many of the attendees. I get the feeling that many of them are very interested in innovation, yet in many cases something is holding them back. Sometimes it's a lack of authority or feeling that they alone can't implement innovation. Some are in a learning process, discovering what "innovation" is all about. Some are battling a culture that is not open to new concepts and new ideas. I get the sense that some change in the market, or technology, or economy will occur and innovation in many firms will literally gush forth.
I spoke with many different firms in many different industries about innovation and the "front end". Most of them recognize a severe shortcoming in generating ideas and moving them through some defined process to a new product or service development phase. Consistently, firms and individuals will tell me they know "how" to build things, they just aren't certain "what" to build.
There's also a real lack of clarity around innovation - the definitions and meanings. When some firms talk about innovation, what they are really talking about is incremental changes to existing products. Some firms are using innovation to mean developing new products in new industries. Some consultants talk about innovation but really mean creativity and idea generation. Those things are important but aren't innovation. The author of Blue Ocean Strategy talked about Blue Oceans and Red Oceans - in other words, defining new markets that your competitors haven't defined. All of these viewpoints are valid, yet don't provide real clarity to individuals who are trying to introduce new concepts to firms more attuned to cost cutting and right sizing than idea generation and innovation.
Another interesting factor is the number of people and firms from the Scandanavian countries. I get the sense that they've seen the future of "Old Europe" and have decided that the best way to remain vibrant is to hitch their country's wagon to innovation. There are a significant number of Finns, Danes and other Scandanavians in attendance, and my experience has been that the Swedes, Danes and Finns especially are really focused on differentiation around innovation.
I'll provide another update tomorrow.