TEDx and Bay Area Meetup Social Innovation Conference

Guest Blog by Ray Eisenberg, Autodesk (ray.eisenberg@autodesk.com) January 14, 2011 Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

I attended a joint TEDx and Bay Area Executives Meetup Group event sponsored by SAP, and Santa Clara University (SCU), Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the School of Engineering.

The conference was on how social networks are making an impact on innovation both outside organizations through customers, and within organizations in organizational silos or crossing organizational boundaries. It focused on different approaches for leveraging social networking for innovation. About 65 people attended.

The conference was divided into two sessions with separate panels on:

  • Engaging innovation externally

  • Engaging innovation internally

The panels were moderated by Prof. Terri L. Griffith of the Leavey School of Business at SCU.  You can see more about this event by going to Terri’s blog at terrigriffith.com.

Engaging Innovation Externally

The first panel consisted of:

  • David Cruickshank, SAP, Director of the Co-Innovation Lab

  • Prof. Joel West, CSUSJ, Expert on open innovation

  • Hutch Carpenter, VP of Product, Spigit

  • Jim Newton, Founder of TechShop

SAP: David Cruickshank of SAP talked about their Labs Project which is open to partners and customers to try out their ideas and technologies.  SAP feels that it “gets it” about innovation and has an Open Innovation office where innovation projects are shared and not “stolen” by the sponsor, which seemed to be a big fear in the audience. Lot of discussion about IP and the need to protect the innovator’s IP and the company’s IP. He divided IP into three categories:

  • Background IP – underlying technology that is cross-licensed that is owned by all

  • Foreground IP – new technology that is owned jointly by the innovator and SAP and the percentages are negotiated

  • Unknown IP – contingencies owned by SAP

He repeated the saw that “technology has the life of a banana” (Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems) and not to get distracted by IP. Concentrate on being first to market and getting product out there.

IP works best with complementary partners that have no interest in each other’s area of expertise, for example, a database application and a hardware company (although there are examples of these kinds of relationships not being as harmonious as they ought to be.)

Some discussion around contests with various models where:

  • The crowd gives feedback and decides on the decision

  • The experts rate the entries and make the decision

  • The crowd gives feedback on the submissions but the experts make the decision.

TechShop: Jim Newton of TechShop was interesting. Techshop  (http://techshop.ws/ )  “TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make.” It costs $100 a month to join for which you get access to tools and equipment that you would never be able to afford on your own plus access to a community of designers, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs. It has about 950 members and is opening up 3 more centers in the US in the next 12 months. It has spawned many commercial products ranging from a new type of motor bike to laser etching equipment. Check out the TechShop Gallery at http://techshop.ws/gallery.html

External Innovation Takeaways

  • Crowdsourcing and customer involvement as a prime source of innovation is here to stay and is increasing

  • Crowdsourcing can be very good for incremental innovation; disruptive breakthroughs, perhaps not so much because he crowd might miss stuff

  • Need to position yourself to become the 'escape valve' of ideas

  • Difference between consumers and enterprise with respect to innovation: consumers not generally about money, enterprise is ALWAYS about money

  • Pain points for external innovation are: Socializing the value of co-creation internally, and Negotiating IP

  • “Technology has the life of a banana” (Scott McNealy)– don’t waste time on IP issues, get product to market

  • SAP Labs a useful concept where customers get to design new product rather than simply comment on yours

  • Can make money off things you don’t own

Note:  What was surprising to me was that nobody mentioned Patricia Seybold’s book “Outside Innovation: How Customers will Co-Design Your Company’s Future” written in 2007, which details the way many companies such as Lego, National Instruments, Staples, Kraft, Unilever, Schwab, Cisco, Amazon, BBC, National Semiconductor and many others, use customer innovation and customer communities to improve existing and design new products.

Engaging Innovation Internally

The second panel consisted of:

  • Prof. Andy Hargadon UC Davis, author of How Breakthroughs Happen

  • Tad Milbourn, Product Manager, Intuit Brainstorm

  • Susie Wee, CTO, HP

  • Wolf Cramer, Transformation Consultant, IBM

  • Robin Daniels, Director of Product Marketing, salesforce.com

HP: Susie Wee  talked about the diverse vehicles for innovation at HP including the

  • HP Garage (18,000 registered users, 5,000 ideas – all read, all answered)

  • Techcon – technology conference

  • Insiders

  • Incubators

  • Co-Creation/Co – Innovation

At HP, their at CTOs for various divisions. The CTOs form their own informal community.

IBM: Wolf Cramer at IBM talked about “action” networks. Need to translate ideas into action. No problem generating ideas. Everyone can generate ideas. But what do you do with them. Need to connect  “idea networks” with “action networks”- who can get things done in the corporation. IBM provides seed money for 3 months and then must pass through various decision gates to pilot and before launch. He also talked about innovation hubs based on social media and collaboration.

Getting new features into a product is easier than creating a whole new product through crowd sourcing.

Salesforce: Rob Daniels at Salesforce talked about Chatter, their “Yammer.” Offered to install it free for anyone at the conference. Told him to pop up to the 5th floor at 1 Market one day to demo! He found that Chatter was a great way to discover “hidden heroes” and celebrate their ideas. Top 25 influencers rewarded every 6 months.

Intuit: Tad Milborn at Intuit talked about focusing on groups “already inclined” to be social and to talk about topics. Aim for the least barrier to entry. At Intuit, 10% of time is allowed to employees for innovation and creating new ideas. (Dan Pink in “Drive” points to Google who get “20% innovation time”, 1 day per week to work on a side project. Pink notes that Google News, Gmail, Orkut, and Google Translate, all came out of 20% time.) Their internal Brainstorm infrastructure has around 12,000 views per month. They also have IntuitLabs where customers can try out new applications. He pointed to “innovator fatigue” where after the bloom of the initial idea fades to be replaced by testing, business plans, marketing, and launch. Ideas need a whole ecosystem to bring them to fruition, not just an infrastructure for generating ideas.

Internal Innovation Takeaways

  • Innovation can’t be relegated or assigned to one group. It needs to pervade the whole organization if it is to be most effective. However, it does have to be driven centrally to ensure that diverse innovation initiatives are leveraged to their fullest

  • Need to translate ideas into action. No problem generating ideas. But what do you do with them. Need to connect “idea networks” with “action networks”- who can get things done in the corporation

  • Innovation needs to be made part of the corporate culture – “10% time” at Intuit, “20% time” at Google – time set aside for employees to work on their own projects

  • Rather than references to great articles (although these are useful too), need to Yammer more about what we’re doing, to create those serendipitous synergies

  • Ideas need a whole ecosystem to bring them to fruition, not just an infrastructure for generating ideas