An Open Innovation Dilemma

April 30, 2008

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to use open innovation for the development of a logo.  OK, it is quite small scale, but I wanted to see the results.

Here are two quick interesting observations.

Signal to Noise Ratio:  This is my favorite measure of the innovation process.  This is the ratio of a signal (what you want – that is, good ideas) to the noise (what you don’t want – the duds).  Higher ratios are better.  Traditional suggestion boxes have a low signal to noise ratio because you get ideas about everything, even things that don’t matter.  And although campaign-based innovation (including open innovation) can yield a higher signal to noise ration, unless you are quite specific with your brief, you will still get a fair amount of “noise.”  There has been more noise in this process than had I used just one designer.  But given the limited number of entries (<50), this has not been an issue.  Had there been thousands of entries – or if the designs being submitted were more complex (e.g., chemical compounds), the evaluation process would have been tedious.

Building on Ideas of Others: Here is the most interesting observation.  In the beginning, few designs were of interest.  But after a period of time, some good concepts emerged.  The website I am using, 99designs.com, allows the other designers to see every logo submitted. They can also see my feedback on which designs I like the most.  As I created my short-list, certain designers decided to “build on” (plagiarize?) the concepts I liked.  Although this resulted in an improved design, it also presented an ethical dilemma.  Only one designer is awarded the prize.  Do I select the best design – even if it is a variation on earlier work by someone else?  Or do I do the “fair thing” and award to the person who developed the original concept? 

Building on the ideas of others is critical to innovation.  Let’s face it, most new ideas are just improvements on old ideas.  But financially-based, winner-take-all competitions can impede collaboration and innovation.  They may force knowledge/creative hording. 

In this situation, a reasonable solution might be for me to split the award money; a percentage to the person who developed the winning concept and a percentage to the person who developed the best final product.  But that is not an option with this open innovation website.

We want collaboration and open innovation.  Yet, if people feel their ideas are being stolen, this will have the opposite effect.

What thoughts/observations do you have on this topic?

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Open Innovation

April 25, 2008

In the past I have written several blog entries about the power of Open Innovation. The most robust open innovation website out there is InnoCentive.

Yesterday I decided to try some open innovation for my own business – on a much smaller scale.  As mentioned before, we are launching a new website with a new web-strategy.  As part of this, we are returning to the “24/7 Innovation” brand.

And for this, I need a new logo.  The logo above was the original logo from 2001. 

I have had friends and professional designers provide their ideas, but with little luck.  I could not explain what I wanted.  I’m a “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of guy.

So I turned to an open innovation website called 99designs.com.  There I was able to post my brief and within 12 hours I had over a dozen designs by different designers.

When the process is completed (in 6 days, 10 hours), I will ask for your vote on your favorite.  Or you can chime in now by adding a comment with the number of your favorite logo.  Click here to view the designs and the brief.

In the past, I used eLance.com for some design work.  But there you select designers based on a portfolio and how much they charge, not the finished product.  99designs is a truer open innovation model in that you select based on the solution, not a bid. 

Where in your business could you benefit from open innovation?  What open innovation website do you use?  I would love to catalogue a large list of good open innovation sites.

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New Innovation Article

April 18, 2008

Although I have written about this many times before on this blog, we have created a formal article on “The Performance Paradox.”  This is part of an eBook being published by 21 professional speakers.

You can find this, and a dozen other articles in my “innovation articles” section of the website.

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Personality Poker

April 16, 2008

Personality Poker™ for Innovation – Taking orders now, shipping mid-July

To order, go to our 24/7 Innovation Shopping Cart

Personality Poker is a fast-paced, highly interactive game that helps employees (and individuals) understand how they contribute to – and detract from – the innovation process. This is a personality test specifically designed for innovation and gives you yet another valuable tool to enhance both your professional and personal lives.

How Do You Play?

All participants trade 52 specially designed poker cards with each other. The objective is to get a perfect hand that reveals your preferred innovation style and how you can best contribute to the success of your organization. This is the only form of poker where you are guaranteed to come out a winner every time.

This game will help you discover…

* why the person you like the least may be the person you need the most
* how your innovation strength may ultimately limit your success
* how to get the right people in the right roles – and where you may currently be misaligned
* a common mistake that people make when selling to others – and how you can easily correct it
* how others see you – and how that might be different than how you see yourself
* why certain leadership styles are more likely to fail–and what you can do about it
* how to improve your relationships – both professionally and personally

If you want to have 24/7 Innovation, where innovation is part of your organization’s DNA, then it is not about finding your strengths; it is about finding how your strengths work best with your team.

Rave Reviews

“Stephen Shapiro brought a Las Vegas level of energy to the group. He made the session not only useful and relevant to understanding of personality mixes and their impact on driving or blocking innovation, but also highly interactive with a lot of audience participation. When you are in a series of presentations at meetings, energy can run out of the room. It didn’t with Stephen’s Personality Poker!”
Andrew Bushell, Head of Innovation, Novartis Consumer Health

“Personality Poker is an entertaining and engaging exercise. The end result is consistent with ‘other’ personality tests, but you can get a team there a lot quicker and have more fun doing so. Plus your understanding of how it matters in the bigger innovation picture really sticks. Fantastic!”
Michele Egger, Innovation Operations, Chevron

“Personality Poker is a fun and engaging approach to both personal assessment and understanding team dynamics. This approach helped me recognize how my own problem-solving approach may complement (or clash) with other team members, and gave me useful insights into future team development.”
Ben Cowles, P&C Business Insurance Service Operations, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

“I thought I’d seen just about every profiling tool there was. Until now, those I’ve seen all required you to fill out questionnaires that are boring and can lead to biased answers. But Personality Poker got to the desired endpoint more quickly, more engagingly, and with less bias than any of these.”
Rob, S., Innovation Champion and Facilitator, R&D Division, A Major Pharmaceutical*

“Personality Poker is both enlightening and engaging. It is similar to other personality test, but is a lot more FUN! It’s a great exercise for any organization to inject some excitement while learning how to create functional teams.”
Tom Morgan, General Manager of Innovation & Process Improvement, Premier Manufacturing Support Services

“If you’re looking for an engaging, invigorating and creative way to kick off your conference or meeting, I highly recommend Personality Poker!”
Randal White, V.P. Innovation Engineering, Imaginatik, plc

“My experience with group style awareness exercises is that they are like getting five-year-olds to take medicine – unpleasant to administer and having benefits that are little understood by the patients. Personality Poker is actually fun and most important, very thorough in understanding team member styles as well as one’s own. The result must be a higher probability of stronger teams with a greater utilization of strengths and acceptance of differences.”
Bruce Harned, President, MarketFit Associates

To order, go to our 24/7 Innovation Shopping Cart

Instruction Manual

In addition to the cards, an 85 page instructor’s manual helps you play the game, interpret the results, and embed innovation in your organization. The manual includes the following:

1. Quick Start Guide

2. Getting a Winning Hand

* Step 1 – Distributing the Cards
* Step 2 – Ranking Cards
* Step 3 – Improving Your Hand
* Step 4 – The Bargain Basement Sale
* Step 5 – Giving Others Cards (optional)

3. Finding Your Primary Style

* Selecting Your Primary Suit
* Interpreting Your Primary Style
o Suits
o Colors
o Numbers
* Secondary Styles
* Complementing (Opposite) Styles
* What if My Cards Don’t Fit the Pattern?
* Stress Styles
* Repressed Styles

4. The Four Styles in More Detail

* Overview
o How they communicate
o How they make decisions
o How you can best communicate with them
o How to sell to them
o How they act under stress
o How they decompress
* Spades: The Thinkers
* Clubs: The Planners and Doers
* Hearts: The Relaters
* Diamonds: The Creatives and Experiencers

5. The Styles and the Innovation Process

* The High-Level Innovation Process
* How Innovation REALLY Works
* How Each Style Contributes to Innovation
o Phase 1: Define the Opportunity
o Phase 2: Find Solutions
o Phase 3: Strengthen, Select, and Plan
o Phase 4: Implement
* Getting a Balanced Team
* Organization Innovation Styles
* Making Your Style Visible to Others
* Style Description Sheet

6. Frequently Asked Questions

* Should I play to my strengths or improve my weaknesses? Can people change?
* I’m an entrepreneur. How can I use the poker concept to help me improve my business?
* What does it mean when people give me cards that are different than the ones I selected for myself?

7. Alternative Rules for Playing

* Guess Everyone’s Style
* A Full Year of Solitaire
* Focused Quick Cut

8. A Sample Script (of a 45 minute ice breaker)

About the Cards

These high-quality cards are manufactured by the same company that makes playing cards for Las Vegas casinos.

More in depth support materials, such as audio and video, will be available for purchase as part of our “virtual train the trainer.”

Licensing opportunities available.

Innovation Speeches Using the Cards

Stephen Shapiro is also available to deliver Personality Poker™ as a speech for your organization. He can provide in-depth insights into the innovation process and the innovation personalities. He has delivered Personality Poker™ to audiences ranging from 8-to-800 people. This is a great, high-energy session to kick off your next event. It can be combined with Stephen’s other speech topics.

Availability

We are taking orders now and will start shipping mid-July. We already sold out our first print run and are awaiting more.

To order, go to our 24/7 Innovation Shopping Cart

Patent Pending

* Some VERY big companies prefer that their name not be used in official endorsements.

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Personality Poker (TM)

April 16, 2008

Coming June 1, 2008

I just heard from the lawyers this morning, and they gave me the green light to tell everyone about our newest product – “Personality Poker (TM).”  We applied for both a trademark (hence the TM used everywhere) and a Provisional Patent.

What is Personality Poker (TM)?

It is a fast-paced, highly interactive game that helps employees (and individuals) understand how they contribute to – and detract from – the innovation process.

How do you play?

All participants trade 52 specially designed poker cards with each other. The objective is to get a perfect hand that reveals your preferred innovation style and how you can best contribute to the success of your organization.

This game will help you discover…

  • why the person you like the least may be the person you need the most
  • how your innovation strength may ultimately limit your success
  • how to get the right people in the right roles – and where you may currently be misaligned
  • a common mistake that people make when selling to others – and how you can easily correct it
  • how others see you – and how that might be different than how you see yourself
  • if you work personality is different than your “home” personality – and why you should care
  • why certain leadership styles are more likely fail…and what you can do about it
  • how to improve your relationships – both professionally and personally

If you want to have 24/7 Innovation, where innovation is part of your organization’s DNA, then it’s not about finding your strengths, it’s about finding how your strengths work best with your team.

Remember, the person you like the least is the person you need the most.

About the Cards

These high quality cards are made by the same company that manufacturers playing cards for Las Vegas casinos.

In addition to the cards, an instructor’s manual will hep you play the game and interpret the results.  More in depth support materials such as audio and video will also be available for purchase.

Licensing opportunities may be available.

Innovation Speeches Using the Cards

Stephen Shapiro is also available to deliver Personality Poker (TM) as a speech for your organization. He can provide in depth insights into the innovation process and the innovation personalities.  He has delivered Personality Poker (TM) to audiences ranging from 15 people to 300 people.  This is a great, high-energy session to kick off your next event.  It can be combined with Stephen’s other speech topics.

We will let you know when the product is officially available.

Patent Pending

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My Website’s Signal to Noise Ratio

April 7, 2008

In  audio, there is the concept of the “signal to noise” ratio.  This is the ratio of a signal (what you want – such as the music) to the noise (what you don’t want – such as the background noise).  Higher ratios are better.

Over the past few months, we have been doing some interesting analysis and experiments on our website. 

Our core finding?  We had a low signal to noise ratio.  Although we have lots of “content” (signal), visitors have a difficult time finding the gems.

Here’s what we did. 

We installed Google Analytics.  We quickly discovered that we had an 82% abandonment rate.  That is, of the 20,000+ visitors each month, only 18% stayed for any length of time.  We hypothesized that there could be two main reasons for this: 1) we had the wrong visitors (so they left), or 2) our visitors were confused and did not know what to do.  Assuming the latter to be true, my web guru (Ariel Coro) tried some experiments.  When he removed half of the options on the home page (fewer menu items, less content, and reduced clickable images) we reduced the abandonment rate to 58% in a matter of days.  42% of the people now interact with the site.  This mean I have tripled the number of active participants…by giving them fewer options.

We also looked at blog statistics.  There we noticed that quantity beat out quality.  My blog strategy has been to write almost daily.  As a result, people had difficulty finding the best blog entries because they were lost in a sea of “filler.” Our solution?  We will replace our blog with monthly “briefs.”  These briefs will be longer, meatier, value-oriented pdf files with high quality content. 

We will be launching a new website within the next few weeks.  The improved site will be simpler and streamlined with fewer options and more content.  We will provide a larger article repository.  We will enable interactivity.  We will give you more of what you want…and less of what you don’t.  Our goal: a high signal to noise ratio. 

Simplicity is the best innovation.

Stay tuned for the launch.

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Quoted in Forbes

April 2, 2008

I was quoted in today’s online edition of Forbes.

Read the article, How to Unlock Your Company’s Creativity

Also be sure to click on “In Pictures: Six Tips For Fostering Innovation At Your Company

I am quoted in Tip #4 and Tip #6

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Instant Replay Computer Crashes

April 1, 2008

When my computer is not working, life is miserable.  Unfortunately, over the past few months, my computer has crashed nearly every day.  To make matters worse, the expert technicians could not recreate my problems, so they could not fix the underlying issue.

What if your computer had a TiVo-like device that recorded all of your activities and allowed you to replay them later? 

According to an interesting New York Times article, a new product called ReplayDirector does exactly that.  It allows you to replay the events leading to a computer crash, enabling technicians to recreate the problem.  The idea was devised when the inventor Jonathan Lindo asked the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just TiVo this and replay it?”

Once again, this is a great example of analogy-driven innovation - taking an idea from one industry and applying it to another.

It’s a good article, so be sure to read it.

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