Jeffrey Phillips, aka, OVOInnovation on Twitter, joined the show Wednesday.
- You can listen to our conversation here.
- You can read Part 1 of this interview here.
- You can read Part 2 of this interview here.
Jeffrey is VP of Marketing and a lead consultant with OVO Innovation. Jeffrey’s led innovation projects for Fortune 5000 firms, academic institutions and non-profits all based on OVO Innovation’s trademarked Innovate on Purpose method.
He was one of the 34 innovation experts who contributed a chapter for the excellent book A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowd-Sourcing: Advice from Leading Experts. Jeffrey’s chapter is Open Innovation Typology.
Your company is OVO Innovation. You’re one of the founders. How does OVO Innovation and your trademarked Innovate on Purpose methodology help your clients overcome some of these obstacles, particularly in the cultural arena?
Well, the tagline we chose was kinda tongue-in-cheek at one point. And we think over time it has become more and more prevalent which was Innovate on Purpose. We think that in a lot of organizations innovations are serendipitous or happy accidents.
And that’s great but that’s nothing to stake your future on. If you’ll take the assumption we work from which is:
“Innovation isn’t a nice to have thing any more but it’s becoming a core competence, then I need to innovate purposely and repeatably and sustainably.”
So, what we try to focus on with our customers, whether you’re doing open innovation or closed innovation, whether you’re doing innovation with specific tools or whether you’re doing it with everyone in the organization or just a small group of people, is that you do it in a disciplined way with a purposeful approach that you have defined processes that can help you sustain it and do it effectively. And all of that’s driven by your attitude and your processes and your culture.
Frankly, we like to say that:
Culture eats all the rest of that for breakfast.
If I can engage a culture and get people thinking about the possibilities for innovation and overcome the issues of Not-Invented-Here and the issues of efficiency over innovation. Because today most companies are focused on efficiencies and right-sizing and cost-cutting far more than they are on innovation.
We really have two challenges.
- One is to move away from while still embracing efficiency, we need to add the concept of innovation back into our cultures.
- And the 2nd is to become much more open to what is happening on the outside. And that is a cultural barrier as well. Traditionally, we’ve said we know what’s best and we’re going to do what’s best for us.
Interestingly, I have a friend who talks about being best at what you do best and outsourcing the rest. And when he talks about that he doesn’t mean just outsourcing manufacturing. Maybe it’s outsourcing legal or outsourcing finance. But the idea here is where are the best ideas I can leverage and the best ideas I can bring into my organization. And is the organization prepared to capitalize on those ideas and move very quickly to then get value out of those ideas.
And that’s really a cultural issue in many cases that has to be addressed first. And we address it through specific methodologies and specific training and cultural shifts in terms of how you compensate and how you reward, and what the management team emphasizes as part of its vision and strategy.
Now before the show we talked about what you did with OVO Innovation and some of the tools you used. You mentioned you used 2nd life at some point in some of your relationships with your clients.
Can you tell us a little bit about that? I thought it was fascinating.
2nd Life is an immersive experience. Basically, you can log on and enter a virtual world and you have an avatar. An avatar is just a little character that represents you in that virtual world. You can walk around that world and interact with other people and so forth.
And one of those things we had been exploring is the fact that this kind of concept this kind of virtual world is a perfect metaphor for innovation. Because you can craft an environment in 2nd Life that aligns to the needs you want to have. So, you can create that new product and show it to people in a virtual world. You can create a new house and show people the new house and the new features and the new benefits. And they can walk through that house and give you feedback.
So, from an idea-generation perspective, from a role-playing perspective, from a scenario-building perspective, you can bring people into that environment that can interact with your ideas in that environment. They can give you feedback on your ideas and you can manipulate your ideas in real-time to say:
“ Oh. I heard that you said you needed this. Does this product or service or environment, does this meet your needs? “
So, it’s a very interesting rapid-prototyping environment. It’s a great place for idea-generation. And it’s virtual.
So, instead of having to fly team members from around the country to one location to meet in a stuffy conference room...we can meet in a really interesting place, we can interact with almost the same level of interactivity and we can test ideas in an environment that is specific to the opportunity or need we’re trying to generate.
So, we found that 2nd Life has been a really powerful platform for innovation, for idea-generation, for scenario-planning, for rapid-prototyping, and we plan to continue to use it as part of our arsenals with the community and partners who are really excited about the possibilities of using 2nd Life.
I have a question here in on my list about 2nd Life and how you used it with a specific client to generate these results. Is that possible to talk about?
I can talk about it generally because we’re under a NDA for the company name and specific functions. But we have written a white-paper about it and you can find that white paper on innovationmanagement.se.
The project we were working on was for a retail establishment. One of the questions was as the web grows and people buy more and more from the internet and do more of their transaction on the internet...what is the need, what is the opportunity, what is the benefit of a retail establishment and what should the retail establishment look like? What sort of products and services and features and experiences should it offer such that it remains a compelling alternative to remaining online.
What we did was we built a number of different alternative kinds of retail establishments or retail footprints and we walked people through those asking them if these features were here how would you interact with them and would you find them beneficial.
And what it allowed us to do was to break the concept down into 3 or 4 different areas. First, there’s a lot of factors around experience in retail. Although, you may buy some of your clothing online, sometimes just the mere experience of going into a store and touching and feeling interacting with the clothing really matters. So, retail experience needs to change. It needs to be more compelling. It needs to be more of an event or more of a destination, if you will.
Another thing we talked about are destination spaces. Sometimes there’s too much empty spaces, so you don’t know where to go. Or it’s too jam-packed. And so we need to give people better cues when they come to our retail location. Here are the spaces within the locations and the different things you can accomplish in those spaces.
And the 3rd thing we talked about were people. And the ability to solve problems on the spot and to be technically savvy enough so that if a customer walks in and says:
“Hey. I’ve got this issue and here’s my laptop or my tablet and can you help me.”
And the people in that retail establishment can interact with the technology in such a way that it blends the virtual world, the technology world and the retail world into one big solution for the customer.
So, using 2nd Life and walking through some of these retail establishments we were able to investigate a lot of these issues and make recommendations about what we felt were going to be really compelling physical structures; but not just the structures but the people, the spaces and the interactions that would happen inside those structures.
That’s fantastic. That’s excellent!
We've reached the imagination moment in our show. Let's imagine President Obama had a few moments this week. He finds your book, reads your chapter. And calls you.
Jeffrey, he says because he's the President. At this point in our declining ratings as a nation of innovators any type of open innovation will work. The challenge for us is to find one and move forward.
What if you came up to the White House and met with myself and Vice- President Biden. We want to hear your thoughts, maybe 3 things that we as a nation can do to identify the type of open innovation that can return us to being number one, generate some new businesses with new jobs.
What do you tell him?
Let say the first thing, I didn’t know you were going to ask me this question specifically.
Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink.
We live in a society and a time when we are literally awash in a time of ideas. And the interesting thing is our government is really dead-locked. And it seems stagnant. At a time when there are so many good ideas out there it seems it’s really more about having the political will to change perspectives and adopt or at least ask people for their ideas as opposed to trying the same tired solutions over and over again.
I’ll direct your listeners to my blog.
But I think there would be three things.
First, the government can’t just be willing to listen to these ideas. They have to be willing to adopt those ideas and to demonstrate that:
“We listened and here’s the results from that action.”
So, the first one I would suggest are philanthropic contests. Can we create a contest much like BP had with the oil spill. What’s one thing you would change in the Department of Commerce. And if you recommended it how would, what would it change and how would it change people’s every day lives in creating jobs. And I use the Department of Commerce as an example. It could be any of the departments.
But, what we should be able to do is suggest very specific ideas that might drive jobs or help the government spend more money effectively or ways to cut costs or abuse and those kinds of things. And be very specific about ways with each agency of allowing people to make ideas.
The government has already started this with Challenge.Gov. But it needs to go a lot further. And it needs to demonstrate it through lots of small experiments. So, as we get these ideas we start kicking off very small experiments.
2nd idea you asked about was if President Obama asked me...was clearly here in the US we’re pretty smart. But we don’t have a lock on the best ideas. Are there places in other countries, other companies, other non-profits, where a problem we’re facing is solved better some place else. This would allow other people, other organizations, other countries, other companies, to submit ideas to the government:
“We see you have this problem. We think we have a better solution than you have.”
That would mean we would have to open up our minds and our political processes to be willing to listen and look at other ideas and accept those ideas.
The 3rd thing I would tell from an open-innovation perspective would be to merely opening up to new voices. I think that our government may be just a bit locked into 535 members of Congress and maybe I don’t know 15 or 20,000 lobbyists on Capitol Hill. That means those are the voices that get heard. There’s 300 million of the rest of us whose voices aren’t getting heard. Are their ways we can begin to compound our voices and get behind specific initiatives and ideas that can then be communicated to our government agencies.
What we’re really talking about is true democracy is true open innovation. If you think about it, it’s people with great ideas trying to press their will on the majority that eventually hopefully many in the majority will accept and it becomes a law.
I think we’ve lost a little bit of our democratic process in allowing ideas to bubble up. And it would be interesting to see if there were different ways to allow open innovation platforms or purely democratic platforms, democratic with a small d, to allow us to bubble ideas back up, bubble legislation, as well into the federal government.
So, those are 3 things. All those are pie-in-the-sky. We’re in the imagination phase as you said. I can be a bit imaginative and hope for the best.
Let’s talk about Social media and Crowd-Sourcing types. I see Twitter as more Suggested/invitational and Google + as more Directed/Invitational with its Circles. I don't see Facebook as an innovation resource. What am I missing?
Well, I think you’re right about social media if you’re meaning to categorize these products.
I think you left one out which I like which is LinkedIn which is probably the closest to Directed and Invitational. You can decide who you want to partner with and you can ask very specific questions.
Twitter allows anyone to submit any idea about any topic or really talk to anyone about any topic.
I can’t say that I’m a huge Facebook user either. But, I suspect Facebook is probably a pretty good innovation resource for groups that need to form wholistically or not-for-profits. You don’t see many businesses actively using Facebook, so it’s probably less of a business resource. Although I think Facebook could be good for innovation use for organizations who are trying to organize around a cause. But probably not so much for a business resource.
Leaders are readers. Jim Rohn says that. I openly incorporate that quote into my shows. You're a leader. What are you reading?
I’ve just finished reading a book called The Innovator’s DNA and I’m going to be writing a book review shortly. The Innovator’s DNA describes 5 attributes or 5 skills that good innovators have. It’s a good quick read.
I’ve also been reading a book called Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. Little bets is a concept we talked about the government should be doing which is kicking off lots of small experiments. Too often we talk about innovation and we kick off 1 or 2 large projects when perhaps we should kick off 5 or 10 small experiments. I think that’s important.
Another book that’s on my desk that I’m reading for Harvard Business Review is a book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy. The idea behind it is really about employee engagement. If you think about innovation, whether it’s internal or external, how engaged your employees are in the processes, the concepts and the strategies and the ideas is really important. Ultimately, your innovation is inhibited or enabled by your corporate culture. If you have an engaged culture, you’re much more likely to have innovation as an outcome.
So, those are three books I’m actively reading now.
This has been a great show. I thoroughly appreciate it.
Can you leave us with a quote on the Typology of Open Innovation.
One quote on the typology of innovation....
I would say that regardless of the size of business you are in, regardless of the kinds of business you are in, regardless if you are public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, there is a type of open innovation that will work for you.
But understand that open innovation is a generic term. And underneath that umbrella are many different types or approaches to open innovation.
What you need to do first is establish what your goals, your strategies and your desired outcomes are. Then use those filters to find the open innovation approach or type that is most applicable to your business. So, you could use a P & G model if that small directed innovation approach is right for you. Or you could use method that is more similar to what Dell is using if a very open, very engaging, open innovation model is right for you.
But understand the implications for their use are fairly profound.
Thank you Jeffrey!