How are organizations budgeting for innovation? What’s holding innovation back? What technologies are considered innovative? Who benefits from innovation? And how do you spark innovation?
- 50% of companies are investing more on Innovation.
- But 24% of compagnies don’t measure innovative investment.
- For 39% of companies, they have more satisfied customers with Innovations
- For 28% of companies, Innovation gives them advantage over competition
- Infographic: Canadian innovation from coast to coast (metronews.ca)
- What is the State of IT Innovation? (visual.ly)
There are critics of Samsung who argue that its success is mostly due to copying and then tweaking the innovations of others. There is a good deal of truth in this, especially around the early Galaxy designs.
But Samsung is a global leader in screen technology, TVs, batteries, and chip design. So in terms of innovation it is doing a lot right. But we know very little about how.
We know how its competitors innovate – we look at Google and see the 20% time, the big adjacencies, the search for disruption, the bold statements about the future of autos, for example.
We know that within Apple when a project gets to a critical stage, the company assigns three teams to its development, each of which competes against the other. We know the importance of design thinking, an attribute Google is learning about. And of customer experience.
What does Samsung do in comparison? How does it line up against these American masters or conversely are Google and Apple good enough to compete against Samsung?
There’s no doubt that patent circumvention is an aim when Samsung innovates. From its early forays into innovation, competing against Toshiba in washing and drying machines, Samsung has chased patents in areas where its competitors appear to have protection and has oriented its innovation efforts to find new patentable ideas in its competitors’ backyard.
Samsung has nurtured a close relationship with the Russian Academy of Science since then. There is a framework agreement between the two parties. And the Korean Government has its own agreement under which it funds Korean small businesses to develop projects on the back of Academy research. Samsung meanwhile appears to help the Academy to increase its patent count and to exploit its inventions.
The relationship with Russian science was the introduction of TRIZ, an innovation method that Samsung adopted from 2000 onwards but which only reached American companies from the mid-2000s onwards.
TRIZ is a methodology for systematic problem solving. Typical of its origins in Russia, it asks users to seek the contradictions in current technological conditions and customer needs and to imagine an ideal state that innovation should drive towards.
Samsung had early successes with TRIZ, saving over $100 million in its first few projects. It was also adopting Six Sigma at the time.
But it was TRIZ that became the bedrock of innovation at Samsung. And it was introduced at Samsung by Russian engineers whom Samsung had hired into its Seoul Labs in the early 2000s.
In 2003 TRIZ led to 50 new patents for Samsung and in 2004 one project alone, a DVD pick-up innovation, saved Samsung over $100 million. TRIZ is now an obligatory skill set if you want to advance within Samsung.
At the Samsung Advanced Institute for Technology, Hyo June Kim, who wrote The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, a foundation text on TRIZ published in Korean, trained over 1,000 engineers across Samsung companies in 2004 alone.
At Samsung even the subsidiary CEO has to take TRIZ training. From looking at the various presentations I estimate that engineers get about 15 days of training plus 7 days specific project work. That’s quite an investment in method and people.
So the answer to why Samsung is so innovative – with at least two major product announcements this month – is that it is heavily invested in its people, it goes in search of special talent wherever it can find it, but specifically made astute moves into Russia early on; it targets its innovations towards specific competitors and patents that it wants to overhaul (as Apple did under Jobs); and it has an innovation culture based on extensive training, repeatable methodology and creative elite formation, backed by the highest levels of management.
Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.
The chances of succeeding at the first attempt to build a solar airplane capable of flying around the world were judged to be slim, so a more rudimentary prototype, HB-SIA (Solar Impulse 1), was first constructed. Lessons learned from this prototype are incorporated in Solar Impulse 2, the Round-The-World Solar Airplane.
Whereas the prototype uses existing technologies, Solar Impulse HB-SIB (Solar Impulse 2) requires the development of new materials and new construction methods. Solvay has invented electrolytes that allow the energy density of the batteries to be increased; Bayer MaterialScience is allowing the project to make use of its nanotechnologies; and Décision is using carbon fibers that are lighter in weight than any previously seen.
The first wing spar section was delivered to Dübendorf in March 2012. However, during the final test of this central part, the structure of the wing spar succumbed to the load and broke. The initial shock soon turned out to be an opportunity: the flight around the world had to be postponed which opened the door for going to the United States and completing the epic journey across America.
After the official presentation of Solar Impulse 2 to the public on April 9th, the airplane will be rigorously tested during 2014, and the Round-The-World flight will be attempted between March and July 2015.
Below, the first flight of Solar Impulse 2.
How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?
Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.
Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
1. Define your company’s mission around innovation
Many companies don’t have a mission statement, but for those which do, often times statements use generic terms, such as “best product in the world”, “best customer service”… They do not inspire employees to innovate. A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customer’s world, for the better.
2. Create the structure to allow employees to experiment new ideas with unstructured time
Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. Then tap into this creative process.
3. Recognize employees’s contribution to the innovation process
Some companies offer monetized incentives. It is hard to assign a $ value to innovation; this is good for sales teams. Some companies give annual innovation awards; it is a good initiative for a short term, but it creates more competition than it encourages collaboration and creates emulation.
4. Return to the past
No new idea is completely original. Some concepts may not have materialized for various reasons, but it is always good to look at the past and understand why it did not work out. You avoid future mistakes, you can find ways to better the products (new technology, new process, new skill…). Start-up companies which by definition don’t have a past can look at what’s be done in the industry, what did not find success, and bounce off this to create something new.
5. Pay attention to culture, not trends
Culture is mass ideology – a system of values and beliefs that runs so deep we don’t question it. There’s an American belief in personal invention and reinvention. You see that in social products like Snapchat and Instagram, which allow us to invent ourselves in the moment. They may seem like a trend. But they reflect a deep underlying value.
6. Continuous education
Self-development is the key to employee’s success. In the same system where company should create a structure for unstructured time, those same companies should create time for continuous education. Allow employees to seek new interests, learn and develop new skills.
7. Allow failure
The essence of innovation is that it takes multiple experiments to successfully create new products, solutions, services. Failure is part of the innovation process. When employees are not afraid of failure, they will feel empowered to take risks and be “crazy”.
Yemi Adesokan, 35- year based Nigerian born researcher, has put his country’s name on the map of nations of innovation.
Adesokan’s discovery which has potential to change the way mankind responds to disease pathogens, according to experts, may bring an end the era of increased burden of drug resistance in the world particularly, in sub Saharan Africa.
When he moved to United States in 1996, little did the young innovator have realise that he was going to rub shoulders with some of the greatest names in scientific technology.
But today, Adesokan who has been listed by Technology Review, an independent media company owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT) USA. as one of the TR35 Award of the 2011 World top innovators. Past recipients have included Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Konstantin Novoselev (later a Nobel Laureate in Physics).
Adesokan is being so specially honoured for his work in the application of next generation sequencing to clinical diagnostics. Adesokan, who is also the founder of Pathogenica Inc., was selected as a member of the TR35 class of 2011 by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, who evaluated more than 300 nominations.
This work is being carried out by a biotechnology startup that I founded with Prof George Church of Harvard Medical School DNA technology. The Pathogenica’s test kits are able to identify the presence, allowing for physicians to screen for multiple diseases with accurate results and a rapid turnaround.
Sequencing technologies have improved a million – fold in the past seven years, bringing scientists a wealth of individual genomics and the key now is to employ the data to improve clinical practice. The DNA sequence of each individual or organism is unique, and is the most detailed signature for identification.
This year marks one decade since the completion of the Human Genome Project, a three billion-dollar effort to sequence a human genome.
A major issue in Nigeria today, is that some sterilised water may contain harmful pathogens. The technology is useful in screening a range of pathogens in water, livestock (poultry, etc.), and in food manufacturing. The key point for this technology is its high multiple. As it scales up, we actually see a reduction in price.
With the innovation, the cost of DNA sequencing has dropped more than 40,000_fold since that time to just $5,000 today. The price continues to drop. We are applying this fast, inexpensive technology in a unique way to improve routine clinical diagnostics.
Ryan Raffaelli, of Harvard Business School, has examined examples of “re-emergent technologies” in detail. The most striking example is the Swiss mechanical-watch industry. In the 1970s it was almost washed away by a tide of cheaper and more accurate digital watches. Today the industry is more successful than ever, providing the country’s largest source of exports after pharmaceuticals and machinery, and the engine of its revival is the old-fashioned wind-up watch.
There are plenty of other examples of re-emergent technologies. Sales of fountain pens collapsed in the 1950s with the arrival of cheap ballpoints; since the mid-1970s they have enjoyed a steady revival. Trams looked destined to become nothing more than tourist attractions in proudly quaint cities such as San Francisco and Paris. But hundreds of cities in the world have either installed new tram systems or have plans to do so. Sales of vinyl LPs in the world have increased from almost nothing in 1993 to more than some millions in 2013. The number of independent bookshops is rising for the first time in decades.
How do businesses go about reviving old technologies in the face of so much innovation? Mr Raffaelli argues that the key to success lies in redefining the product’s value and meaning. Swiss watchmakers redefined their products as status goods rather than a means of telling the time. That they are so much harder to make than digital watches added immeasurably to their desirability. Independent booksellers are redefining themselves as communities where people who care about books meet and socialise. Trams are re-emerging as a green solution to both pollution and urban sprawl: a striking number of the cities that are adopting them are formless sunbelt cities.
This redefinition demands a careful balance between tradition and change. Revival businesses often need to cultivate a close relationship with their craftsmen and customers, who may see themselves as guardians of a great tradition rather than mere employees or consumers. The Swiss watch industry arguably survived only because collectors kept paying record prices for watches at auctions and skilled craftsmen refused to abandon the old ways: when Zenith decided to throw away its mechanical watchmaking moulds at the height of what Swiss refer to as “the quartz crisis”, one old-timer decided to store them in a shed instead, wheeling them out once again when the luxury market took off. Revival businesses need to peddle their back-story remorselessly.
However, while peddling their traditions and reassuring customers and craftsmen that they are holding true to them, revival businesses also need to be willing to change. Nicolas Hayek and Ernst Thomke saved the Swiss watch industry from impending death by applying a succession of electric shocks. In a series of deals they brought together a bunch of ailing businesses into the mighty Swatch Group, whose sales last year reached SFr8.8 billion ($9.5 billion). They fought back against cheap digital watches by first redefining Swiss watches as fashion items, with Swatches, and then redefining them as luxury items, with brands such as Breguet, Blancpain and Omega which sell watches for six-figure sums.
Revival industries need to be willing to take tough decisions: for example, sacrificing market share to new entrants while holding firm on price. They also have to be ready to reorientate themselves to new markets: the Chinese have proved enthusiastic buyers of Western heritage goods.