September 17, 2015

Chief Innovation Officer Summit round-up – Part 1

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As Odecee’s representative at the Chief Innovation Officer Summit held at Sydney’s Hilton, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some the great stewards of innovation over the last couple of days – not necessarily the ideas makers, but those that develop a culture in their organisation within which innovation can thrive.

I’ll be providing a few quick write-ups of my experiences, starting now with…

Day 1

The day could have kicked-off more smoothly, I suppose.  In classic ‘Kelvin’ style (i.e. a little bumbling, but ultimately well-meaning), I found myself in the wrong room for the first session. Thankfully, the Chief Strategy Officer Summit (as opposed to the Chief Innovation Officer Summit, where I was supposed to be) happened to be on the other side of the hallway (where I actually was). Here, Luke Fishley, Director, Diversified Business Lines from Medibank was delivering a very interesting discussion that transcended strategy, delving a little further into the development of a tangible product.

Luke took us through a case study of the recently launched ‘GymBetter’ initiative. I got the impression this was a landmark for Medibank in incubating an innovation into a commercial outcome and truly taking on start-up principles.

GymBetter allows Medibank customers to find, join and buy from selected health clubs and gyms at a flexible and discounted rate. What was interesting from Luke’s discussion was how – inspired by the frameworks suggested the book ‘The Little Black Book of Innovation’, Medibank was able to develop a proof of concept (POC) for GymBetter and deliver a product to market within five months. This was no mean feat when you take into account the following:

  • They needed to construct a program that was mutually beneficial to their customers, the health clubs and Medibank.
  • They were starting from scratch, which meant their needed to open up a one-to-one dialogue with their customers to unearth what they would truly find valuable.
  • They had to develop the value proposition, design and develop the right features for the prototype, and then test, release and market the product in time for their customers’ New Year’s ‘get fit’ resolutions.

For Luke, the key learnings from this project were:

  • Figure out what your critical assumptions are and test them.
  • Don’t do focus groups! The gems are in the one-on-one conversations.
  • Read widely, ask others, experiment, have constraints on your projects, and understand and use your assets.

After Luke’s talk, I managed to find my way to the correct room in time for Paul Levins from IVIDF (Intellectual Ventures Invention Development Fund).

Paul posed the question to the audience: “How would you spend $1.6 trillion dollars?” The figure is in reference to what will be the global spend on R&D in 2015. ($1.6 trillion dollars on spiderbots, perhaps? I’m haunted by the thought).

Paul gave us a quick history lesson on a key decision by US President William McKinley during the late 19th century – the decision to introduce a patent system that would protect people’s ideas – and how that resulted, in part, in the exponential growth of the American economy.  He likened this impact to the current evolution of crowdsourcing, set to lead us to the next ‘golden age of inventing’. Paul took us deep into the IVIDF organisation and showed us a few case studies. The most though-provoking aspect of this talk for me was the discussion of the legal and vetting aspects of inventing. Who has vetted the inventor? Does the idea infringe on someone else’s? Does the idea have global reach?

My favorite talk of the day was from Mark Drasutis – Head of Innovation for NewsCorp. Yes, you read that correctly – NewsCorp.

The narrative at the beginning wasn’t quite linear; this made his talk interesting to listen to but a lot more difficult to summarise in a blog post. His intention upfront wasn’t really to tell a story, rather to offer us a few random gems. Here are a selected few:

  • Disappointment needs to be something you can learn from.
  • Always remember your company is a complex but adaptive system.
  • Time is your customer’s biggest pain-point.
  • Make it real and tanglible – a prototype is worth a 1000 meetings.
  • Think and operate like a lean start-up.

He then brought me back to safe blog-writing territory with a run-through of News Corp’s innovation methodology. Here are a few of the key points he highlighted as crucial to their success:

  • ‘Flocking and steering’ – the importance of teams’ adaptability in being able to quickly react, change course and steer in the same direction to counter disruption
  • More experiments.
  • Swift collective action.
  • Organisational endurance.
  • Quiet change – change that happens below the surface.

He finished up by quoting my favorite phrase: ‘What are the seven most expensive words in business? “We have always done it that way”’ – nice little thought.

Next up was Martin Collings – Vice President of Innovation Management & Commercialisation at MasterCard.

Now, I’ve heard of Ajaypal Singh Banga (the CEO of MasterCard) before, but never heard him speak. Martin played a video clip extract from a recent interview with Banga on his Innovation labs, which for Martin (who works in said labs), must have been a little uncomfortable. Banga’s position was basically ‘if they don’t deliver me two products in two years, they’ll all be fired and I’ll get a new set of people’. In response to the sympathetic looks from the audience, Martin said with a smile: “I’ll take job satisfaction over job security any day”. Good on you, Martin – I couldn’t agree more.

Martin then took us through his key learnings since being in his role – there were eight in total, but the three key points that stood out to me were:

  1. Yes, solve a consumer pain-point BUT think about all the other processes involved as well.
  2. Lower the pressure for the user when beta testing – consumers aren’t all lovers of innovation. Make the consumer feel comfortable and relaxed when they’re trying something out.
  3. Frequency of opportunity to transact – building usage as a habit will create a ‘must have’ feeling for a customer. Support this with the right training and ongoing care around the product or service

I’ll finish off the Day 1 round-up with Nicholas Georges, who as Director of R&D of CHOCOLATE for Mondelez (Cadbury) has perhaps the greatest job on paper in existence. Nicholas discussed how innovation is not the whole, but one part of a growth strategy, and that conventional wisdom when it comes to innovation still needs to apply. For example:

  • You need to understand the market potential.
  • Where is the market unsatisfied?
  • Is the innovation part of the brand alignment?
  • If the customer is going to ‘hire’ you, then who are they firing? What’s the competitive landscape?
  • Sometimes innovation is high-cost and high-risk – can you deliver something to market with the parts you already have?

Sobering to hear for a man in my position but, as an ex-product developer, I know his words have the ring of truth.

Also made some interesting points of finding the right mix of innovations:

mix of innnovation types

The biggest takeaway for me, though, was his parting thought – ‘buy yourself time to innovate and spend more on the ‘frontend money’ (the ideation, design and thinking), otherwise the ‘backend’ (development) will always fail’.

Wise words, Nicholas. Now bring me some chocolate.

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