Innovation Management Wisdom

Posts with the tag 'ideas economy'

The Economist Innovation Conference: Platitudes or Playbook?

“Innovation: Fresh Thinking for the Ideas Economy”, a conference produced by The Economist magazine, starts today at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

The program announcement includes many of the trendy buzzwords that have become all too familiar to those of us in the innovation trenches–open innovation, social entrepreneurship, bottom of the pyramid, flat world, crowdsourcing and the be-all-end-all, technology…Ugh…double ugh.

Since I’m not planning on attending, I can’t speak with any authority about the outcomes of this conference. It’s not that I don’t feel this conference could be useful. I just find that the vast majority of attendees at these events are mostly consultants and academics who already get it.

I’ve often felt that we were talking to ourselves, validating ethics, ideas and principles that are mostly inarguable. But, these ideas haven’t been practically implemented by the very people who would benefit their organizations and maybe even the rest of us by putting them to use.

They, by the way, also mostly get it, or are at least receptive. They don’t attend these conferences, I suspect, because they can’t implement it..or do attend because they are looking for ways to implement it. They need playbooks, not platitudes, nor quick fix psuedo-solutions.

Our conversations with clients breeze easily over the principles of innovation. They get it. Where they get stuck…and fear-struck, is where we start talking about applying these principles in their organizations. They want the playbook, the nitty gritty details of how we help them implement innovation–or change– in their organizations.

Their concerns pertain largely to the organizational barriers to innovation, or, to put it in simple terms, how not to get fired in the course of deflecting their organizations, with all their histories, traditions and lines of authority, away from the status quo.

Open innovation? Bottom-up ideation? Social entrepreneurship? “Fine,” they say. “How do I get people in my organization to be more responsive to customers when their bosses, whose interests may not be aligned with customers, are the arbiters of their immediate economic security?

The playbook starts with understanding the playing field, or more accurately the organizational mine field, which we describe in “Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap” (available for download on our home page.) Once you know where the mines are, it’s easier to avoid them, survive and even live a fulfilling life as an innovator.

So, I hope this conference marks the beginning of the Ideas Economy 2.0, where we begin to hold as self-evident that encouraging creativity and sharing ideas are good, like motherhood and apple pie. We need more of the playbooks that enable those principles to be exercised.

I’ll be watching.

March 23rd, 2010


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