FT Innovation Conference Highlights – Part 1

November 18, 2009  

I just returned from a week in London where, amongst other things, I spoke at the FT Innovate conference. There was an impressive line-up of speakers including the CEOs of Jaguar, EMI and Best Buy. This is the first of two blog entries with conference highlights.

Jaguar Land Rover

David Smith, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover, provided the state of the luxury car market. He described it as a “capital intensive fashion industry.” A car these days, he noted has 150 CPUs in them. To show how advanced the technology is in cars, he humorously said, “What if a car took as long to turn on as a computer did to boot up.” It is also worth noting that Jaguar has moved from some of the lowest quality levels to being #1 in the US, now ahead of even Lexus.


Next up was Elio Leoni-Sceti, CEO, EMI Music. He suggested that one innovation challenge for EMI is finding the consumer in the new world of music. As the formats change (i.e., digital), it is harder to get direct access to the buyer. As things move digital it also presents a new challenge.

  • The current sale of music by volume is 30% physical (e.g., CD) and 70% digital.
  • Piracy of physical product is only 5%. 95% of people legally purchase these products
  • Piracy of digital product is 95%! Only 5% of the downloads are done legally.

Elio suggested that what is needed is more “relevant” innovation. Innovation that deals with consumer needs. For example, after a Coldplay concert, you can download free music. Or Nora Jones has an “LP” on iTunes that includes more than just the music and is interactive. Depeche Mode has an iTunes Pass that is a one-time fee for content with exclusive singles, remixes, and video. Abbey Road Live allows fans to buy a CD of the concert they just attended because it is recorded, mixed, and mastered on site. He described it as bringing the studio to the gig.

Elio closed with 3 thoughts on how to bring innovation into the organization.

  1. Leave your baggage behind. What worked in the past is irrelevant.
  2. Ask the customer first
  3. Work with your market


Next on the stage was Genevieve Berger, Chief R&D Officer, Unilever. She is a fascinating woman with PhDs in physicals, medicine and biology. Wow! She talked about cross-category R&D programs. The objective being to take technologies from one category (e.g., food, personal care, and home care) to another. My favorite was how the toothpaste group developed a new tooth whitening approach by borrowing from the laundry detergent group. The concept is simple. For years, laundry detergent has used bluing agents as a way of making whites look even whiter. It is an optical effect that blocks the reflection of yellow. They developed a bluing agent for toothpaste that makes your tooth appear whiter without actually whitening them. I wonder if your teeth glow under black light they way clothes do due to the bluing agent.

The next blog entry will include highlights from GE’s CMO, Best Buy’s CEO, and more.

P.S. Be sure to read Alan Patrick’s comments from the event.  It is entertaining and insightful.

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