Innovating on a Schedule

Organizations are challenged more than ever to come up with innovative products and services yet there is no formula for innovation, nor can you buy it from Amazon.  However, we have found that by combining social networking principles with technology IBM has found a way to help large organizations innovate, and innovate on a short time scale.

What’s our basis of authority? The increasing trend of powerful social networking platforms and the complexity and challenge of product development triggered our interest in this timely topic.  We have led development organizations for over 20 years, and we wanted to see what new methods might be available to improve the generation of breakthrough products. Joined by Santa Clara University Professors (Tammy L. Madsen, Kumar Sarangee, and Jennifer L. Woolley) who shared our interest and passion, we performed a multi-client benchmark study including Amway, Cisco, HP, IBM, NetApp, and Solidworks.  IBM provided some of the most advanced examples in this study.

So What? There is a common myth that innovation and creativity can’t be managed and it will take as long as it takes.  Well in some cases, that is a myth.  Innovation does not have to be unbounded in time.  The IBM Jam process of social innovation can allow teams to innovate and get products to market quickly and repeatedly.  There are two Jam formats – the MiniJam™ and the InnovationJam™ with session durations of 24 hours up to 2 weeks (with preparation of 6-16 weeks, and analysis and implementation of 1-4 weeks).   For the shortest MiniJam format, the end-to-end process is less than 8 weeks.  Believe or not, these processes can be used with up to 20,000 participants!

The Jam approach combines a disciplined facilitation approach with IBM Research’s text analysis tools scanning forum comments for common threads to identify emerging themes.  They have found a lack of anonymity ensures that feedback remains constructive, even if critical.  Jams are also about connecting people, and not just ideas.

What do I do about it? Consider the IBM Jam approach.  The IBM Jam accelerates innovation & consensus by combining an optimized process for innovation with technology to help with communication, filtering, and idea enhancement.  The jam consists of three core steps:

  • The Preparation Phase plans the event, performs preliminary research and data gathering, event metrics, and post event plans, and customizing the IBM hosted application.

  • The live Jam Phase duration is typically one week but can be as short as 72 hours. Real time data analysis tools scan forum comments to identify hot topics and emerging themes. Lack of anonymity ensures that feedback remains constructive, even if critical.

  • The Analysis and Implementation Phase contains a review by executive management, communication planning, implementation planning, and initiative kickoffs.

Results:  Quickly harnessed innovation on new problems with large, distributed organizations

  • Within seventy two hours hundreds of ideas can be generated.

  • Technology provided the ability to draw upon experts repeatedly because the responses are traceable.

  • The Jam process yielded prioritized and manageable solutions with a direct line of sight from idea to execution.

  • This has been tried many times within IBM and at Lilly, Nokia, UN and many other organizations and non-profits.

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