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Business Innovation Conference 10/7/2009 Second Morning Session

| On 07, Oct 2009

Ellen Domb

What a challenge to the speakers who followed Luis Reis to get the audience re-engaged!   I went to the “Innovation in Tough Times” by Peter Balbus and Melissa Giovagnoli.   They asked for some crowd sourcing  input; the participants were asked for their personal list of top 10 innovative companies.  Peter’s main challenge to the audience was to look for industry and technology convergence that create opportunities (Will the research on fundamental physics at CERN give us any knowledge to solve the power generation problems?) and the second challenge was to look outside your own company (use the supersystem in TRIZ-talk) for ideas and resources for innovation.


Melissa Giovagnoli is the author of the book “Networlding” and distinguishes her concept from the conventional networking by the intentional nature of building the network and using the network in ways that are mutually beneficial for all participants.  She used her collaborative relationship with Peter (networlding and innovation resulting in crowd sourcing solutions) as a case example.  Unfortunately, it appeared that Peter and Melissa did not heare Luis Reis’ presentation, which took their ideas into the real world in a real company.   Likewise unfortunate was the amount of time both consultants spent promoting their books and their consulting practices. 


Ellen’s advice to consultants at conferences:  everybody in the audience knows you are a consultant and have something to sell.  Give them value in your presentation and, if they need more, make it easy to find you!  If you waste their time during the presentation, they will be much less likely to want to talk to you.


LIVE EXPERIMENT:   I put the Real Innovation and TRIZ Journal commentary URLs on the whiteboard at the conference and asked for comments, particularly by people who went to sessions that I missed and by people who disagreed with my perspective.     Let’s see what happens.


C.N. Madhusudan presented “Innovation in Troubled Times,” the last plenary/keynote session of the  conference. He is a serial AND parallel entrepreneur with companies in North America, Europe and Asia.  His initial stories about innovation emphasized that innovation is not technology–the vegetable vendor who uses idle time between customers to create a premium product (shelled peas) and the lunch delivery service in Mumbai that operates at better than six sigma accuracy with no ERP, no MRP, no consultants (big laugh from audience).   GE and   Dunn & Bradstreet were outsourcing services to India.  They both (separately) created new business entities in India so that they could have a profit center instead of a cost center.  The Georgia Aquarium was designed by architects with no aquarium experience, because the experienced people all said it was impossible (they knew too much about the technology.) 


His technology example was really business system innovation:   PC’s were under-utilized 30 years ago in corporate environments.  They couldn’t do training because there were no professors.   They invented “blended” learning with video and computer-based training, with the live facilitators, but still tied to the classroom.  People did not have home computers (30 years ago in some parts of the world, and different times in different parts) but neighborhood learning centers created a great multiplier for training with very little investment.  


Horror stories of ERP implementation overlapping with poorly documented legacy systems created an opportunity for the outsourcing companies, and a new business called “knowledge portals” which organize the client company’s data, so that it can be managed in current generation systems, and enables the outsource IT company to make service level agreements without the risks of dealing with the legacy systems.   An unanticipated side effect was diminished demand on the legacy mainframes as unnecessary code stopped being used.


Creativity in dealing with the bureaucracy might be a particularly Indian skill, but it provided an excellent model for innovation in non-technology, non-capital intense applications of what had been previously technology-based innovation.   He converted his personal experience moving from the world where “coffee was brought 5 times a day by the coffee-boy and secretaries go to the post office for you” to a one person start up in the US to lessons in innovation.  


Madhusudan said that in large companies, innovation in recessionary times is EASIER than in prosperous times, since the limitation of resources makes it easier to challenge “but we’ve always done it that way.”    A visionary CEO can make opportunities in all kinds of situations, but it is easier to penetrate the organization when people are UNcomfortable, either because of the economic situation, or because the company has structured DIScomfort (by reorganizing, by putting people in job rotations, by moving people to different countries, etc.) 


Conclusion:  Success requires Chemistry, Physics, and Math.   Chemistry is the people part.  Physics is the structure part, and Math is make sure that the measurement system is properly adjusted to promote the desired behavior,