Spring 2014

Editor's Note

Successful Innovators Cast a Wide Net

Welcome to the latest edition of the Brainwaves Journal. This month, we look at some novel ways that organizations are driving innovation.

Crowdsourcing isn’t just a way for startups to raise cash from people who share in their vision. An increasing number of companies are using crowdsourcing in the form of competitions to elicit ideas from employees, customers and the public at large.

In our following article, we’ll tell you about how AT&T looks for innovation across its entire employee population. And European energy giant Statoil has launched an innovation challenge that’s open to the public at large. The most recent effort resulted in a new way of testing its equipment for safety. There are many other organizations that are taking non-traditional routes to innovation and casting a wide net for new ideas.

We also spent some time with Pfizer’s Vice President of Worldwide Innovation Wendy Meyer. The pharmaceutical giant is combining clinic trial data with real world patient data to gain a better understanding of how medications are performing. The insights that result from this type of big data analysis has brought about some significant insights and innovation, Meyer says.

Global communications and IT company NTT Group recently opened an innovation center in the Silicon Valley. We spoke to NTT Innovation Institute CEO Srini Koushik and asked him for his formula for creating an innovation culture. Here’s what he tries to impart to his employees:

  • No fear
  • Failure is O.K.
  • Trial and error is part of the process
  • Trust yourself and others
  • Communication is essential
  • Foster an open environment
  • Healthy competition within teams is encouraged

We hope these examples will inspire new ways of thinking about innovation. The BPI Network is a global platform for those who are adapting to marketplace challenges with new business models, customer engagement strategies and management best practices. Change, disruption and speed are the new business imperatives that all companies must master in order to drive value.

We’re hard at work on two studies that deal with these very topics and will be must reads for any and all business professionals involved in financial management and strategic partnering. Our thought leadership study “Predictability Through Planning Agility” looks at how new forecasting and budgeting models are turning finance departments at leading companies into key drivers of business value.

Our other study, “Grow From the Right Intro” looks at how small and medium sized companies are maximizing strategic partnerships for revenue growth, market access, product line extension, geographic expansion, customer access, domain expertise and capital sourcing. We invite you to share your ideas and experiences with the BPI Network community and take the online survey.

Please feel free to contact us.

Sally Quigley

Program Director, BPI Network


Feature Article

Companies Increasingly Turn to the Collective Intelligence of Crowds for Innovation

By Karyl Scott

The collective intelligence of communities is far greater than the work of a single individual. That’s why so many organizations are turning to crowdsourcing for innovation.

According to social scientist Nicolas Christakis, the collective intelligence of groups provides a powerful problem solving capability. “Groups are great at identifying the optimum path to a solution,” says Christakis in his “Big Think” video on YouTube. Christakis is a sociologist and physician who conducts research on social networks and biosocial science and directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University.

There are a number of web sites that elicit innovative ideas and solutions to difficult scientific and mathematical problems such as Foldit and Quantum Moves.

Foldit invited the general public to play protein-folding games to discover new research strategies. A group of video-game players solved a molecular puzzle that had stumped scientists for years, figuring out the detailed molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from a virus found in rhesus monkeys.

Quantum Moves is a game developed under the Science at Home project, which aims to explore the potential for citizen science in this otherwise highly technical field.

Corporations are also turning to the public to solve intractable problems. Dell IdeaStorm website launched in 2007 to try out its ideas on the public and to engage with consumers on innovative new products. To date, over 20,000 ideas have been submitted and more than 500 implemented.

A number of large corporations have held crowd source competitions with monetary prizes for the winning idea. Network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc. launched the I-Prize contest for the most innovative business plan. A husband, wife and her brother won the prize in 2008 for a plan that showed how TCP/IP technology could be used to increase energy efficiency. They won a $250,000 prize.

Energy giant Statoil of Norway has launched an innovation portal and a LinkedIn Knowledge Network group in its search for solutions to specific business and engineering problems. Statoil, which is the largest corporation in Northern Europe, recently awarded a prize for an idea that will help it increase the speed and safety of inspecting offshore oil and gas production equipment.

 Well-known tech investor Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, suggests that great innovation no longer originates in traditional R&D labs at large corporations, such as the fabled Bell Labs, but from distributed communities.

 That notion is not lost on 100-year-old telecommunications giant AT&T, which is using crowdsourcing across its entire employee base to mine for innovative ideas. AT&T conducts an internal innovation program called the Pipeline in which all employees can contribute ideas, undergo a peer review and potentially receive funding for product development. AT&T calls this the crowdsourcing of innovation. Since the program was launched in 2009, some 5,000 ideas per month have been submitted.

 Waze Ltd. was founded in 2006 in Israel and was acquired by Google in 2013 for $1 billion. Waze uses crowd-contributed data to power its traffic app. A community of 100,000 users contributes real-time information about traffic, construction zones, accidents and road closures. Contributors can also clue users into speed traps. Google recently integrated the Waze technology into Google Maps, providing real-time traffic information.

 Just as open source software development has been embraced by major computer companies such as IBM (which now uses the Linux operating system to power its mainframe computers), the crowdsourcing of ideas will likely become a commonplace practice in corporations’ quest to innovate, disrupt and dominate new markets.


Pfizer Creates a Culture of Innovation

VP of World Wide Innovation, Wendy Meyer Shares Her Best Practices

Wendy Mayer is the Vice President of Worldwide Innovation at Pfizer. She spoke recently with the Business Process Innovation Network about how the pharmaceutical giant handles innovation and measures success.

Q: How does Pfizer manage innovation across the enterprise?

A: We work in three areas. One is to build a culture of innovation. Two is to connect to innovation outside of our organization. Three is to be the initiator of the experiments that are in the more disruptive or breakthrough innovation space.

Q: How do you measure innovation success?

A: A lot of our success metrics are about the extent to which we are providing information, building capabilities or helping to advance thinking across the organization. All of these are accelerants of innovation across the broad organization. We look at how many people have been exposed to a new capability? Is the capability translating into an increase in the number of innovative ideas? Is our culture evolving to support the elements that drive innovation?

Q: Does Pfizer approach innovation from the top-down or from the bottom-up?

A: We’ve tried it both ways and when innovation works best, both models are in play. You need enthusiasm at the grassroots level of the organization and you need support for those ideas from above.

Q: What role do C-level executives play in innovation?
A: In a recent initiative, our CEO was very vocal in sharing his point of view across many forums within the organization. He communicated that this innovation capability was a priority for Pfizer and would be required for our future success. In doing so, employees get it, see it, and get very excited by being part of the process.

Q: What is the biggest impediment to innovation in a large organization?

A: Fear of failure. Innovation requires a lot of trial and error and the best innovations are iterations of things that have come before. If employees feel there isn’t a tolerance for failure or that failure is a black mark on their reputation, they’re reluctant to take risks. Another problem is funding. If funding is only made available to projects that have a demonstrated ROI, it will kill new ideas.

Q: What role does innovation play in drug clinical trials?

A: A few years ago we decided to augment our own data with real world drug results that looks at patient results over time. The insights that can result from data can become fodder for innovative ideas.

Q: What role does experimentation play in innovation?
A: Experimentation is huge, especially in testing unproven ideas. In the past, we would fully develop an idea on a small scale. It took a lot of time to put a pilot project together and it could be resource intensive. And either the pilot worked, and you moved forward, or the pilot failed and you were done. Now, we’re unpacking ideas into critical assumptions and testing those on a much smaller scale. That lets us do things much more quickly. You don’t have to develop the fully baked idea.

Q: What’s the difference between invention and innovation?
A: Invention is taking a blank sheet and creating something totally new. It also suggest you derive business value from it. Innovation can be about bringing a new concept to an existing area. The concept may have existed somewhere else and you are adopting it and applying it in a new context.

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