I've talked to a number of people at these conferences and I've come to a couple of conclusions about innovation, one of which I'll share here - many of the people who come to these conferences could really use an introductory program just to introduce the various concepts and approaches for innovation. I'd guess about 30% of the people at most of these events are literally drinking from the firehose and are overwhelmed by what they see and hear, and don't have a good sense of how to implement any of the stuff they hear at these events.
Last week we heard Carol Pletcher, the CIO at Cargill talk about the recent successes of the innovation initiatives at Cargill. What people may fail to realize is that Carol and her team have been working on those initiatives for over 5 years, and they have significant senior management commitment and have worked with a number of external consultants and advisors. All that stuff didn't fall out of the sky yesterday - and for all of the success they've had at Cargill, only about 20% of the business units have implemented the innovation approach. This innovation stuff - while it seems straightforward - takes time, focus and energy to implement successfully.
When you add to those facts the different approaches - open versus closed innovation, incremental versus disruptive, the cultural changes, processes and tools necessary to develop and support innovation initiatives, I think a good number of the people are simply overwhelmed at these events, and could stand a breakout session targeted to people and firms that are just getting started. I spoke to one of the corporate organizers about this idea, and he replied that they had offered programs like this previously but no one showed up. I suspect that some people may be unwilling to identify themselves as newbies, but you can tell when you meet them at the events, in the meeting halls and exhibit halls. They have been told that culture, sorry processes, sorry tools, sorry expert training, sorry ideation sessions are what will cure their problems. The question is - where do we begin?
I have some opinions about this. I think you need to first align your initiative with corporate strategies, define some basic workflow about your ideas, establish the type of ideas and their focus (incremental versus disruptive), who can submit and who can evaluate ideas, and define an idea database. However, I think many of these attendees would be well served with a basic introduction to innovation, the concepts and moving parts.
What do you think?