Just when I was thinking I have probably gone on about the innovation imperative a tad too much in these recent posts, something happens and here I am all fired up, writing to champion the case for innovation all over again.

A few weeks ago, I attended the IBM Software Universe 2008 held here in Mumbai. And guess what the core theme for the whole two day event was?

Real Innovations. Real Results.

Ponani Gopalakrishnan, VP at IBM Labs in his keynote speech on the second day, presented some very powerful thoughts and some data on research findings. Through the presentation there were at least two slides which made me gasp for breath. Those slides reiterated my own strong feelings on the case for Innovation and doing things differently, particularly given the tough market situation we are experiencing now.

Let me share some of those points with you.

According to the research, 8 in 10 CEOs anticipated turbulent change and were planning bold moves.

Which is fine, really. What’s the big deal you ask. The Panwala down the road too knows that there is global economic turbulence. Push him to a corner, and he would plan bold moves too. You don’t need millions of dollars worth of research to tell you that.

But wait. Don’t be hasty to conclude yet. For, juxtaposing this with few other findings gives us incredible insight that opens a new window to the possibilities that can be explored.

75% of CEOs seem to think that demanding customers is in-fact an opportunity to differentiate.

And then, consider this point – organizations are beginning to realize there might be a bigger bang from investments in customers who are willing to collaborate and drive innovation.

What Ponani Gopalakrishnan’s points seem to indicate certainly is Collaborative Innovation – but not in a Peter Gloor way, but more like ‘Applied Collaborative Innovation’ if you see what I mean.

Peter Gloor’s idea of Collaborative Innovation Network – COIN – is more a concept of Collaborative Innovation seen through a tint of social constructionist leanings – a sort of social co-activity driving the mechanism of innovation.

According to Gloor, a Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan centre for Collective Intelligence, five characteristics of a COIN are –

  1. They evolve from learning networks,
  2. Feature sound ethical principles,
  3. Are based on trust and self-organization,
  4. Make knowledge accessible to everyone, and
  5. Operate in internal honesty and transparency.

COINs rely on Internet, e-mail, etc. for information sharing. The key winning aspects are of course near-real-time collaboration and creativity.

That, more or less, is essentially what Dr.Ponani is talking about, only as applied in the world of business ruled by Return Of Investments and Value Benefits.

The nature and scope of innovation itself, says Dr.Ponani, is changing. According to him, Innovation has become more Open, Collaborative, Multi-disciplinary and global and could extend to
  • Product and Services Innovation
  • Process Innovation
  • Business Model Innovation
  • Societal Innovation

In the tumultuous market conditions that are prevalent today, it is no longer feasible for a manufacturer, product or technology  company to fund innovation as a separate function (read cost-centre) with no assured returns from the market. Dr.Ponani’s thoughts suggest that the answer need not necessarily be in bringing innovation to a grinding halt, but to connect early in the curve of the innovation cycle with the market – partner with a customer who sees benefit from innovating and is willing to place a small bet on the technology – the result: a win-win situation for both.

And of course, in the end, the spirit of innovation lives and its benefits are for the taking. But don’t dismiss this bit of information to the back of your mind assuming these are the ways of mammoth organizations like IBM or thinking these are trends large companies indulge in.

From small manufacturing companies to large IT service providers, there certainly is a good case for collaborative innovation. Given the squeeze markets are experiencing, it may actually be the right time for such a model of engagement for innovative product design, development and even manufacturing.

Note: You can get Ponani Gopalakrishnans presentation here (click)

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  1. rummuser February 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I just wish to say that I am extremely proud of you. I wish that I knew enough about the subject to comment intelligently on your posts but you have my assurance that I shall bookmark your blog, visit regularly and comment whenever I think that I can make an intelligent observation. Just keep posting. I am adding you to my blogroll too. All the best.

    Just a suggestion. You might like to add a commentluv plugin.

  2. Jaisundar February 26, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    @Rummuser: Thanks for visiting and for leaving such a generous comment.
    However, I think I need to dispute your statement just to ensure other readers of this blog get the right perspective. This was just a simple post on Innovation. I can safely bet that the man who was among the first to introduce ERP into corporate India, the man who worked with Germans themselves to build an ERP(much before SAP was born), the man who has headed several companies across the country, the man who was among the first students to walk the hallways of the IIM (A, no less), must know something about innovation!! Its an honour even to have someone like that visiting this blog!!

  3. Pingback: IBM Software Universe 09 | Bouncing Thoughts

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