Sunday, August 30, 2009

Innovation Flow at NCL

I delivered an Innovation talk to scientists at the National Chemicals Laboratory, Pune on 27 August '09. NCL is a premier lab run by Council for Scientific and Industrial research, Government of India. I spoke on Innovation flow - the science of flowing Ideas and Inventions into Technology Innovations.

You will find the Presentation Material "Innovation Flow" at SlideShare:

I have posted the presentation in two parts

Alternatively, you can find this and a few more of my presentations at my LinkedIn page:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Innovator's advice for Innovators - what is the smart thing to do when the going gets tough?

Art & Innovation seems to go together. Art Fry (3M) of PostIt fame has become a legend in Innovation circles. Here is some news about Art Fong, an innovator from HP. Art Fong has a piece of advice for Innovators - I am sure you would like it.

Phil (McKinney of Killer Innovation) recently interviewed Art Fong, who was personally recruited by Bill Hewlett to Hewlett-Packard in 1946.

About Art Fong:
Prior to joining the HP team, Art had many groundbreaking achievements in his career. He was a part of the development of the first AM/FM radio and radar technology, which became an integral part of the World War II efforts against the Axis. During his time at HP, Art made major engineering contributions to the company, with innovations such as impedance-measuring instruments, a line of signal generators, and the first calibrated microwave spectrum analyzer. At one point, his innovations generated a staggering 30 percent of HP’s revenue.

Art Fong's advice for fellow innovators and engineers:

.. when the going gets tough, go backpacking, fishing, skiing, so forth. Relax. It gives you a break when your problems are all mixed up in your cranium. I found sudden answers while looking at the clouds, a falling star, or a fawn. Thinking of problems while in a new environment often leads to a new path to the solution.

I believe in his advice. Many great Inventors and Innovators have expressed simillar views.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to flow Ideas and Inventions into Innovation

Most of us make our daily living by generating creative ideas, solving tough technical problems and translating our ideas into inventions. Now what would give us greater satisfaction? – Innovation, i.e taking our insightful ideas and breakthrough inventions successfully to the market. How good are we at Innovation? – the present statistics are quite discouraging - typically, for every hundred good ideas, ten may lead to breakthrough inventions and one to an innovative product that meets a critical need of the customer. To accelerate the Innovation process and to maximize the Return on Innovation, we need a systematic Innovation process that will (a) focus and structure our ideation efforts (b) align our ideas to solve a critical need and ensure that the Customer sees added value and most importantly (c) give us the satisfaction of seeing our idea through the end of the Innovation Funnel.

As an inventor, I have often wondered how to bridge the gap between invention and innovation. When I got into managing technology programs, I struggled to defend and nurture those promising out-of-the box ideas that tend to get killed in conventional stage-gate processes. To create an effective Innovation strategy, I wondered how I can balance the capabilities of emerging technologies and the needs of emerging markets. I studied many Innovation processes, creativity tools, consulted with Innovation experts, researched many Innovative organizations (Google, 3M, Apple, Toyota, P & G etc) and also learnt from facilitating Innovation in R&D organizations (GE, Tata and Dow). I found that the secret to successful innovation lies in systematically growing the innovation potential of ideas.

I evolved my Innovation approach based on TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving - to address primary concerns like:
• How do we make sure that we are solving the right Problem?
• How to balance Imagination Vs Knowledge and come up with creative, yet technically feasible, solutions?
• How to learn from creative ideas and smart solutions that have solved similar problems in other domains? How to integrate this knowledge into our solution?
• If our technical expertise / domain knowledge alone is not sufficient for Innovative Problem Solving – then what other new skills do we need to learn?
• Is there a systematic approach to sail the Idea through various barriers and translate it in to an innovative product?

We will talk about each one of these themes in the days ahead.