This is an important lift-off. At first sight, it may look like the launch of yet another tool or process. But this is much more. It is part of an overall Innovation Architecture based on the principles of Open Innovation.
In many industries, innovation is generally recognized as a critical ingredient for corporate success. Until relatively recent times, most companies used internal research and development as their only method of innovation. However, companies are now proactively considering all sources of innovation, both internal and external, to remain competitive. Usually this is referred to as “Open Innovation”, a term coined by Henry Chesbrough, Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm.
Idea Generation is an effort to uncover new and unexploited innovation opportunities. This is not about conducting traditional market research—that is, asking customers to go through a questionnaire, either on paper, online, or by phone. Neither is it about going out and directly asking customers what they want. Methods like these rarely yield the most useful customer insights. Typically, the answers they generate are the obvious suspects: “I want it cheap,” “It should be easy to buy and use,” and “Make it work really well, too.”
Innovation Idea Generation is about “serendipity”. Serendipity happens by understanding that innovation is largely a numbers game—it it takes a thousand ideas to find a hundred with enough commercial promise to merit a small-scale experiment. From those one hundred experiments, only ten projects will be judged worthy of pursuing seriously with a substantial financial commitment, and of those, only one or two will turn out to be unqualified successes.
SWIFT has been very successful in late 2008 and through 2009 in engaging community and staff in an “open” innovation model. Under the “Innotribe” label, SWIFT is encouraging individuals and companies to submit their ideas pertaining to SWIFT or the SWIFT eco-system.
The idea generation part of the process is thus focusing on engaging the community, through social networking (e.g. swiftcommunity.net) or specific events (such as Innotribe@Sibos) and tracking the resulting ideas in a transparent and open environment (innotribe.com).
Experience at SWIFT and the industry shows that this open approach does generate results (in terms of the number of ideas generated), The same experience shows that 1 or 2 ideas out of 10 prove to be successful ideas. So it is very important to establish a screening mechanism – the “innovation funnel”.
As ideas flow through the funnel, they can reach different “maturity levels”:
- Discovery: the actual idea generation stage
- Orient: document the ideas gathered and “orient” them in the SWIFT context. For example some ideas may give innovative insights for standards, for interfaces, for networking, etc
- Evangelize: some ideas may need further evangelization to fully grasp the possible impact on SWIFT’s strategy and roadmap
- Proof of Concept (POC). A way to make an idea more tangible. Can be a whitepaper as the outcome of a number of dedicated workshops, a mock-up prototype, an animation, or a fully working prototype.
- Idea management: the stage where we decided whether an idea will go for internal or external development. The external route is usually the scope of “incubation”
- Idea incubation: process to bring an idea from the concept stage to a first implementation (prototype, “beta” etc)
- Implementation: anything beyond idea incubation
There are many ways to do idea generation:
- Ideas from Staff, Partners, and Member companies: in the spirit of “open innovation”, we want to collect ideas from the SWIFT eco-system at large.
- Innovation Challenges: mainly SWIFT internal challenges to collect ideas from staff.
- Innovation Gardens: An Innovation Garden is 1-2 days of off-site meeting with 4-5 executives of the customer and a mixed team from SWIFT.
- Innovation Labs: similar to gardens, Innovation Labs bring together multiple customers in an idea generation setting looking for ideas in a pre-defined focus area. Labs have been highly successful for example at Innotribe@Sibos 2009, SOFE, etc
- Innotribe.com. The subject of the launch of today. Ideas above will be collected via the brand new Innotribe.com site, a sophisticated web-based idea management tool. The idea management process links seamlessly into the transversal product management process
- Innotribe Events: Innotribe@Sibos was a huge success. We intend to run localized Innotribe events, and to participate and collaborate with other industry events where we aim at joined branding to enforce the SWIFT Innotribe brand as the innovation initiative for the financial industry
- Scouting: many companies that are aggressively looking outside their walls for new technology are using Innovation Scouts, specialists tasked to identify new opportunities for partnership, co-development, licensing or acquisition.
All the above activities are related to the supply-side of idea management. However, the Innovation Architecture should be very specific on the demand-side of idea management. I already highlighted this topic in my previous post on “Innovation to the Core”. How we deal with that will be explored in a future post.
In the meantime, go to www.innotribe.com, look around, and start submitting loads of innovative ideas.