Gaining an Innovation Edge with Automation

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Just as it’s important to foster a culture of innovation, perhaps the same could be said of a culture of automation. Despite rising costs that every company must be aware of, we are not suggesting merely replacing workers with automated systems. But automation has become an increasingly important tool for companies to stay ahead of market forces. As Sunil Ranka, founder of Predikly, a data innovation company, and venture partner with Z Nation Lab, a startup accelerator, writes in a Forbes article, “How Automation Cultivates A Culture Of Innovation,” automation “can streamline processes, reduce cost and improve the efficiency of employees by freeing up their time to have them focus on more strategic tasks. Having automation in place can also help an organization provide real-time data and insights that can help workers make informed decisions and improve their decision-making process.”

The speed of response, and adapting to change, are also key factors in developing more automation efforts within the company. Ranka makes the case that it’s also not just about the technology but about the cultural mindset taking place in the company. “Bringing in automation creates a workplace that is open to new ideas and encourages employees to think outside of the box. Also, it means you are empowering your employees to take on risk and experiment with new approaches.”

A clear roadmap is essential, as is often setting up a “center of excellence” in the company to oversee improvements in processes and operations. “This would require setting up goals and objectives for automation, tracking progress toward those goals and regularly reassessing the strategy to ensure automation is driving the innovation as intended,” says Ranka.

Deploying the Right Equipment

In “The Future of Work is Reshaping Trends in Innovation,” All Things Innovation took a closer look at the diverse trends shaping the future of work, including automation and AI. Automation frees up employees from repetitive and mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more creative and strategic endeavors. AI technologies can analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and generate insights, providing valuable inputs for innovation. AI-powered tools can also support ideation, prediction, and decision-making processes, contributing to more informed and effective innovation efforts.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called “Innovation Means Increasing Throughput Not Reducing FTE,” presented by Donald High, Chief Data Scientist, Internal Revenue Service. Strategy, transformation and data science leaders know that the value from automation and/or AI is not provided through the reduction of talent. The value of automation and AI is provided by on-the-ground experts disseminating their tacit human knowledge so a new process can be put in place around new technology. That process, coupled with a strategy and a plan, provides the pathway for enterprise value in the form of collective (human and machine) intelligence. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Fueling Innovation

Automation can significantly benefit innovation within an organization in several ways. We asked ChatGPT to break it down into several advantages that automation gives innovation:

  1. Time and Resource Efficiency: Automation of routine and repetitive tasks frees up valuable time for employees to focus on more creative and strategic activities. This efficiency allows teams to dedicate more resources to innovative projects.
  2. Increased Productivity: Automated processes can operate around the clock without the need for breaks, resulting in increased productivity. This accelerated pace can contribute to faster development and implementation of innovative ideas.
  3. Data Analysis and Insights: Automation tools can process large volumes of data quickly and accurately, providing valuable insights. This data-driven approach enables organizations to make informed decisions and identify new opportunities for innovation.
  4. Consistency and Quality: Automated processes ensure a high level of consistency and quality in tasks, reducing the likelihood of errors. This reliability is crucial for innovation, as it allows teams to build on a solid foundation without being hindered by avoidable mistakes.
  5. Collaboration and Communication: Automation tools facilitate better collaboration and communication among teams. By streamlining workflows and providing real-time updates, these tools enhance coordination, fostering a conducive environment for innovation.
  6. Rapid Prototyping and Testing: Automation allows for rapid prototyping and testing of ideas. With automated testing tools, organizations can quickly iterate and refine innovations, reducing the time it takes to bring new products or services to market.
  7. Enhanced Customer Experience: Automation can improve customer interactions through chatbots, personalized recommendations, and other automated processes. By providing a seamless and efficient experience, organizations can retain customers and create a positive environment for innovation.
  8. Adaptability to Change: Automated systems are often more adaptable to changes in the business environment. This adaptability is crucial for innovation, as organizations need to be agile in responding to market trends and evolving customer needs.
  9. Cost Savings: While the initial investment in automation may be significant, the long-term cost savings can be substantial. By automating repetitive tasks, organizations can reduce labor costs and allocate resources to innovation initiatives.

Gaining an Edge

Automation can act as a catalyst for innovation by optimizing processes, improving efficiency, and creating a conducive environment for creative thinking and problem-solving within an organization. Creating the right culture—in both automation and innovation—can be critical to success. As Ranka notes, “Companies that invest in automation will be able to cultivate a culture of innovation and advanced thinking that would allow them to be better equipped to respond to the changes in their industry and scale their operations.” Strategies like that could very well shape the future of work.

Video courtesy of Fortra

Creating the Right Innovation Partnership

At the Intersection

There can be many advantages and opportunities when a partnership develops between a corporation and a startup. There are also many avenues that a partnership can take, from licensing and ventures to mergers and acquisitions, or alliances with a university or other academic institution.

Of course, there are also some pitfalls and disadvantages as well that can impact both parties negatively. It’s important to build on communication, trust and transparency and to view the relationship as a true partnership—and not as an adversary or a competitor. Ideally, the synergies between companies will outweigh any cultural differences that may arise.

Entrepreneur’s “Making Startup-Corporate Partnerships Succeed: The How-To” detailed a few key points that might help in making a partnership succeed and understand each other’s perspectives:

  1. Get the strategic buy-in from both the C-level and executive teams. One of the biggest mistakes and reasons for failure in a startup-corporate partnership is assuming that getting the buy-in from the CEO is enough to go ahead and build a successful partnership. Lack of internal sponsorship and commitment from the full executive team will categorize you as a “side project,” with low resourcing, making your task even more challenging.
  2. Embrace cultural differences from day one. Whether you like it or not, cultures at your startup and your potential corporate partner will differ widely. To accommodate these inherent cultural differences, you must establish a mutually aligned timeline, and emphasize the importance of mutual persistency along the road.
  3. Bring your A-team to the collaboration. This goes for both the startup and the corporate, as you want to both feel you are 110% committed.
  4. Set success metrics early on. Knowing where you are headed, and having clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your partnership is critical, and they hold everyone accountable.
  5. Arm yourself with patience. Last but not the least, knowing from day one that things will not go as planned will help you navigate around all the uncertainties, and also manage your resources and expectations better.

Finding the Right Balance

All Things Innovation has explored the dynamics of the startup and corporate partnership several times. In “Balancing the Innovation Partnership,” we examined the challenges and opportunities from both perspectives. For the startup, there may be initial struggles, such as raising investment funds, hiring key employees, gaining customers and expanding into new markets. For more established, large corporations, many face intensified market competition, are slow to act, and there could often be internal barriers to fostering an innovative culture. Yet, it can be a win-win formula.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called “Mastering The Corporate-Startup Partnership Process,” presented by Lisa Costello, Director, Head of Platform, Prologis Ventures at Prologis. This is what real corporate innovation looks like: Prologis is orchestrating multiple AI solutions simultaneously. Join this session to see these use cases, which show money and time being saved while value is added—and winning with collective intelligence. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Start Me Up

Collaborations between startups and corporations can yield a range of innovation benefits. We asked ChatGPT to reveal ten key advantages of such partnerships:

  1. Rapid Innovation and Agility: Startups often operate with a high degree of agility and can bring innovative ideas to market quickly. Partnering with startups enables corporations to tap into this speed and agility to drive rapid innovation.
  2. Access to Emerging Technologies: Startups are often at the forefront of developing and adopting new technologies. Collaborating with startups provides corporations with access to cutting-edge technologies that can be integrated into their products or processes.
  3. Cultural Innovation and Entrepreneurial Mindset: Startups typically have a dynamic and entrepreneurial culture that fosters creativity and risk-taking. This mindset can infuse a corporate environment with fresh ideas and a more innovative approach to problem-solving.
  4. Market Expansion and Disruption: Startups can help corporations explore new markets or disrupt existing ones. Partnering with startups can provide established companies with novel approaches to reaching customers and addressing emerging market trends.
  5. Cost Efficiency and Resource Optimization: Startups are often lean and efficient, making them valuable partners for corporations looking to optimize costs and resources. Collaborating with startups allows corporations to leverage external expertise without the need for significant in-house investment.
  6. Access to Entrepreneurial Talent: Partnering with startups provides corporations with access to a pool of entrepreneurial talent. This talent can bring fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.
  7. Joint Product Development and Co-Creation: Collaboration between startups and corporations can lead to joint product development, where both parties contribute their strengths. This co-creation process often results in innovative products that blend the strengths of startup innovation with corporate scale.
  8. Flexibility and Experimentation: Startups are more inclined to experiment and take risks. By partnering with startups, corporations can inject a sense of experimentation into their innovation processes, allowing for the exploration of new ideas without the fear of failure.
  9. Access to Startup Ecosystems: Startups are embedded in vibrant ecosystems that include other startups, investors, accelerators, and industry experts. Partnering with startups provides corporations with access to these ecosystems, fostering networking and collaboration opportunities.
  10. Competitive Advantage and Future-Proofing: Collaboration with startups can provide corporations with a competitive advantage by staying ahead of industry trends and disruptions. This proactive approach to innovation helps companies future-proof themselves and remain relevant in rapidly evolving markets.

Winning Partners

Successful startup-corporation partnerships require effective communication, a shared vision, and a commitment to mutual benefit. When done well, these collaborations can create a win-win scenario, driving innovation and growth for both parties. Seizing these growth opportunities is never easy but partnering with a startup could be the answer to overcome a specific challenge a corporation is grappling with. Making sure your game-changing concept has the right partner could help get it past the drawing board.

Video courtesy of Partner Insight

Bringing Sales and Innovation Together

Product & Sales, Together Forever

Sales and innovation tend to be viewed as separate entities yet, depending on the size of the company, there might be more links than initially one might think. Startups might benefit from a melding of different departments, yet as companies grow their teams they might move into more established silo roles. So just how can we lessen the disconnect between product-facing teams, such as innovation and product development, with customer-facing teams, such as marketing and sales? According to research from BCG, the dynamic might also shift and depend upon just what type of innovation is being focused on—incremental, step by step innovation or more disruptive business model and digital service innovation.

According to BCG’s “How Leaders Bring Product and Sales Teams Together,” leadership can be key. Leaders can see the “requisite links between their technology and product development teams and their customer-facing teams to excel at three increasingly important types of innovation.” BCG notes that this includes disruptive product innovation—being first to find valuable use cases for a new technology. Second comes digital service innovation—adding digital service or subscription revenue to existing high-performing product- or hardware-driven business models. Third is business model innovation—radically innovating the core value streams of a business to deliver value to new customer groups or find new ways to monetize or deliver products or services.

So just what are some tactics that can help forge the relationship between innovation and sales? BCG lists a few directions:

  1. Build a One-Team Mentality. Cross-functional teams are a hallmark of many innovation leaders.
  2. Align Incentives with Matching Metrics. Matching metrics are said to address both sides of the innovation equation: R&D and business teams. Business unit leaders are incentivized on product vitality (the share of sales from products launched in the past three years) while R&D leaders and engineers are incentivized on new sales generated by the patented products or technologies they develop.
  3. Establish Clear Lines of Communication, Mandates, and Accountability. Clear accountability and communication are essential ingredients of effective innovation systems.
  4. Shift the Status Quo and Celebrate Success. Companies are finding lots of ways to shake things up and look at opportunities through new sets of eyes. This shift is often initially challenging for everyone involved, but once the new language is embedded across the organization, it creates the space necessary for more disruptive product and business model innovation.

For Sale—Sold!

In “Measuring Innovation Performance,” All Things Innovation looked at how the performance of innovation needs to be measured over time. Innovation can be a key component to drive a company’s sales success and performance, in both short-term and long-term initiatives. Yet many executives grapple with just how to measure innovation effectively. It can be challenging to find the best metrics to track, how to evaluate the impact of innovation and how to align it with strategic goals. However, there can be some common metrics to build a foundation and support the innovation framework, as well as different measurements that can be applied to different stages of the innovation process.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called “From Idea To GTM: Innovation & Sales Uniting For Growth,” presented by Michele Sandoval, Director of Innovation, and Steve Wallace, National Sales Director, both E&J Gallo Winery. Innovation people and salespeople usually speak different languages. They’re usually informed by seemingly divergent goals. Having said that, in the spirits industry, that alliance isn’t unusual. This session showcases how very easily innovation and sales can achieve impressive organizational returns. Beyond that, you’ll be able to take back tried and true principles of tying together front-end and back-end innovation for end-to-end results. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Sharing Synergies

Sales and innovation can work together in various ways to drive business growth and success. We asked ChatGPT to identify some of the top strategies to foster collaboration between sales and innovation teams:

  1. Cross-Functional Collaboration: Encourage regular communication and collaboration between sales and innovation teams. Facilitate meetings, workshops, or brainstorming sessions to bring these teams together.
  2. Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback loop between sales and innovation. Sales teams can provide valuable insights into customer needs, pain points, and market trends, which can inform the innovation process.
  3. Shared Goals: Align the goals of both teams to ensure they are working towards a common objective. This can foster a sense of shared responsibility for the company’s success.
  4. Innovation Training for Sales Teams: Provide sales teams with training on new products, features, or technologies. This equips them with the knowledge to effectively communicate these innovations to customers.
  5. Customer-Centric Approach: Ensure that innovation efforts are driven by a deep understanding of customer needs. Sales teams, being in direct contact with customers, can play a crucial role in conveying these needs to the innovation teams.
  6. Pilot Programs: Implement pilot programs or beta tests that involve collaboration between sales and innovation. This allows both teams to gather real-world feedback and iterate on solutions.
  7. Innovation Incentives: Create incentives for the sales team to promote and sell new innovations. This can include commission structures, bonuses, or recognition for successful adoption of innovative products.
  8. Regular Updates: Keep the sales team informed about ongoing and upcoming innovation projects. Regular updates help them stay ahead of the curve and anticipate customer inquiries.
  9. Innovation Champions: Identify individuals within the sales team who are passionate about innovation. These “innovation champions” can bridge the gap between the two departments and encourage collaboration.
  10. Data Sharing: Enable seamless sharing of data between sales and innovation teams. Access to customer feedback, sales data, and market trends can significantly enhance the innovation process.

Boosting Productivity

By fostering a culture of collaboration, communication, and mutual understanding, sales and innovation teams can work synergistically and productively to drive business success and stay ahead in the market. There may be many paths forward depending upon the organization. As BCG notes, “Executives have a varied toolkit at their disposal, starting with tried-and-true organizational or governance measures and extending into initiatives such as incentive design, systematic relationship building, and culture change.” Of course, one hopes that ideally, companies can extend and nurture both sales and innovation for a long and fruitful partnership.

Video courtesy of Winning By Design

Advancing Universal Interaction

Intelligent Agents

Is AI becoming the front end of universal interactivity? And just how will this impact the front end of innovation? It’s a nascent question as we are really on the cusp of knowledge sharing, and interacting, with artificial intelligence. Some important points as a foundation of this strategic philosophy are to realize that we have already established a collective consciousness and that we have perhaps been preparing for computer-enabled human interaction through various cultural moments for decades, such as the evolution of laptops and smartphones. AI is in some ways facilitating a step-change in how computers interact with humans. One can perhaps get ahead of the pace of change, outpacing disruption by consistently repositioning tech and talent.

Still, the future when viewed through AI-human interactivity can seem a bit murky. It is about a scale of mass adoption and invention of a technology that is only at the beginning stages of development and interaction. One expert points to augmented reality and virtual reality as the next wave that will impact consumer devices. Yet, it is with the power of AI that may make this a more possible reality.

As Achin Bhowmik, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering at Starkey and adjunct professor at Stanford, writes in a Forbes article, “The Impact Of Human-Technology Interaction: What Comes Next?”: “For these AR and VR devices to go beyond niche applications, they have to enable natural and intuitive human interactions with eye gaze, hand gestures and voice inputs. We’ll interface with technology the same way we interact with other humans. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), based on machine learning techniques, are increasingly enabling robust computer vision and language understanding technologies that will make this possible.”

Experts are seeing AI as enhancing these immersive experiences through VR and AR headsets. Bhowmik too points at developments in hearing aid technology, which is being updated with AI to create a kind of in-ear personal assistant, enhancing and supporting the hearing aid user experience. And just what else has yet to be explored. What about the interactions between students and AI at a university? How about the interactions between doctors, nurses and patients through more virtual and immersive experiences? What about a consumer dealing with finances with a virtual bank advisor?

All thanks to the development of AI. Bhowmik observes, “Recent breakthrough developments in generative AI based on large language models that are trained with massive amounts of data are already showing us a glimpse of the future of the human-internet interface and interactions. Moving beyond just asking a query and getting an answer in return, we will have deeper conversations with an intelligent agent.”

Enhancing Insights & Innovation

In “Enhancing Insights by Connecting AI, Human Understanding,” All Things Insights recently looked at AI through the context of its H2 2023 edition of the Insights Spend & Trends Report. We discussed the report in the context of AI’s early stages within the insights field, and how the industry seems to be embracing advanced technology with cautious optimism. We then look at the seemingly paradoxical themes of AI and human insights—and how they can work together.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a keynote session called “The Front End of Universal Interaction,” presented by Kate Carruthers, Head BI, UNSW AI Institute, Chief Data & Insights Officer at University of New South Wales. Carruthers will share how AI is becoming the Front-End of Universal Interactivity. In looking at the collective consciousness, the evolution of technology, and the development of talent, the presentation will further examine this critical juncture and the burgeoning field of computer-enabled human interaction, fueled by AI. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Infusing Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is significantly enhancing and impacting the front-end of universal interaction in various ways. We asked ChatGPT, of all places, to detail some of the ways AI is paving the road for more human interaction.

  1. Personalization: AI-driven personalization algorithms analyze user behavior and preferences, tailoring content and experiences to individual users. This enhances user engagement and satisfaction, providing a more personalized front-end interaction.
  2. Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants enhance front-end interactions by providing instant, automated responses to user queries. They improve user experience by offering real-time assistance and support.
  3. Voice Recognition: AI enables sophisticated voice recognition systems, allowing users to interact with devices and applications using natural language. Voice-controlled front-end interfaces, like virtual assistants, smart speakers, and voice-activated applications, have become increasingly prevalent.
  4. Image and Video Recognition: AI enables image and video recognition, enhancing interactions through visual data. This technology is used in facial recognition, augmented reality applications, and content recommendation systems, creating a more visually engaging front-end experience.
  5. Predictive Analytics: AI algorithms analyze large datasets to predict user behavior, enabling businesses to anticipate user needs and preferences. This predictive capability enhances the front-end by presenting users with relevant content or suggestions before they explicitly request them.
  6. Natural Language Processing (NLP): NLP allows machines to understand, interpret, and generate human-like language. Chatbots, voice interfaces, and language-based searches benefit from NLP, making front-end interactions more intuitive and user-friendly.
  7. Sentiment Analysis: AI-driven sentiment analysis tools gauge user sentiment from textual data, such as social media posts or customer reviews. This information helps businesses understand user emotions and opinions, allowing them to tailor front-end interactions accordingly.
  8. Enhanced User Interfaces (UI): AI contributes to the development of adaptive and responsive user interfaces. Front-end interfaces can dynamically adjust based on user preferences, screen size, and device, providing a seamless experience across various platforms.
  9. Recommendation Systems: AI-powered recommendation systems analyze user behavior and preferences to suggest personalized content or products. This enhances front-end interactions by improving content discovery and increasing user engagement.
  10. Automation of Routine Tasks: AI automates repetitive tasks, streamlining front-end processes. This includes automating form fillings, data entry, and other mundane tasks, allowing users to focus on more meaningful interactions.
  11. Gesture Recognition: AI facilitates gesture recognition technologies, enabling users to interact with devices through gestures. This is particularly prevalent in virtual and augmented reality applications, creating immersive front-end experiences.

What’s Next?

AI is transforming the front-end of universal interaction by making it more personalized, intuitive, and adaptive. As these technologies continue to evolve, users can expect even more sophisticated and seamless interactions across various digital platforms.

As Bhowmik puts it in Forbes: “The rapid advances in AI will have a profound impact on how humans and devices interact. It will make our tasks easier while helping us live better and healthier lives. You don’t always know when you’re living in a historical moment, but this is one of those times we’ll look back on and remember how this evolution of technology changed how humans interact with and benefit from the technology around them.”

Video courtesy of Entefy

Innovation Principles, 4/7

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
—Alan Key

It can be costly and discouraging to learn late in the game after a significant investment of financial, technical, and human capital is already made that our product is not addressing the true customer need or cannot be manufactured profitably. The innovation spiral is designed to preempt such late-stage disappointments.

The nine causally related building blocks are tailored in a spiral arrangement so that each step is generating critical inputs for the subsequent one. For example, it would not make much sense to brainstorm new concepts before understanding what problem we are trying to solve and for whom. Our business case might not be worth much before understanding potential product cost (i.e., cost of goods sold—COGS estimate) estimated from insights in the preliminary concept design and anticipated manufacturing approach.

The innovation spiral.

Understanding the problem is half of the solution.” This saying provides one of the most fertile mindsets when initiating an ideation work-stream to generate solutions for a new business opportunity. That is also why the innovation spiral begins with a serpentine pathway that ensures a repeated focus on the first two steps before expanding to four steps and then continuing to iterate through all other incubation building blocks. Jake Knapp offers a nimble methodology [1], tested by Google Ventures, where a focused five-day sprint moves from problem definition via solution generation to prototyping and validation with users.

We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we find the wrong solution to the right problem.”

—Russell Ackoff

Focus on the initial four steps before continuing with the iterations.

The fastest and most effective path forward from problem definition to user-validated prototypes is through focused sprints where the first four steps of the innovation spiral are interrelated and addressed together. The iterative converging schematic below illustrates how the key elements of the initial four steppingstones relate and work together. Needs definition is accomplished by collecting insights from interviews with users and experts, as well as shadowing and observations. The key is to leverage immersive observations in addition to user interviews in order to detect non-obvious, latent, and unarticulated needs. Subsequently, solution attributes are derived from the needs and used to further guide concept ideation, prototyping, and user validation work. During this entire effort, the problem statement (Step 1) is iteratively refined from the user’s point of view.

Solution generation and converging down-selection based on need insights.

Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” That frames another productive mindset for concept generation and prototype work. Concept generation (Step 4) goes through a series of flaring and focusing steps. We flare and diverge when generating and expanding on new ideas while focusing and converging when combining and down-selecting solutions. This is a highly iterative process that relies on rapid prototyping to quickly validate the feasibility and acceptability of different concepts [2]. If there is a healthy number of initial concepts to begin with, then by cross-fertilization and down-selection via the focus-and-flare process, we will almost always arrive at two final competing solutions from which a winner needs to be chosen.

It is often easier to down-select from 10 concepts down to two than from the last two to the final one. That is particularly true when dealing with complex systems that need to balance trade-offs between different scientific phenomena (e.g., a time race in a microfluidic device between the kinetic of a biochemical reaction and a reagent diffusivity intended to prevent that reaction). In such cases when difficult trade-offs and complex technologies need to be integrated under hard constraints, the project could significantly benefit from a deeper feasibility and a technology refinement before moving to product development.

Subsequently, the spiral expands to potential solutions and business constraints as it keeps iterating across all nine opportunity building blocks. In the initial spiral rounds, only basic insights might be obtained. At each successive round through the nine steppingstones, we dig deeper to learn more and ensure that no showstoppers exist. It is common for an idea to change throughout this iterative progression. In fact, it is rare for an idea to survive the innovation spiral unaltered from its original form. When facing an obstacle, the team often adapts the idea or pivots. If a showstopper is encountered, they might decide to completely discontinue—and if it is meant to be, fail fast, fail cheap, and move on.

How many spiral iterations are sufficient? As many as it takes to adequately address all questions and key risks of the entire spiral and come up with a business offering that is at once desirable, feasible, scalable, and viable (see Innovation Principles, 2/7). In most cases, the innovation is ready for product development when the following three foundational opportunity enablers are fully vetted and established: (i) a viable business model reflecting desirable value proposition and a profitable business case, (ii) a target product profile encompassing prioritized customer and business requirements; and (iii) a feasible and scalable functional concept(s) with adequate IP protection potential.

References

[1] Knapp, J. (2016). Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days (1st ed.). Simon & Schuster.

[2] Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching user experiences: Getting the design right and the right design. Elsevier.

Editor’s Note: Selected topics from Milan Ivosevic’s book, Eureka to Wealth, will be featured as part of this Innovation Principles series in the following months:

  1. Introduction (Oct. ’23)
  2. Entrepreneurial Perspective: Human-Centered Design Entrepreneurship(Nov. ’23)
  3. Entrepreneurial Perspective: End to End Product Innovation Framework (Dec. ’23)
  4. Opportunity Incubation: The Innovation Spiral (Jan. ’24)
  5. Opportunity Incubation: Business Case (Sizing the Opportunity and Go / No Go check)(Feb. ’24)
  6. Product Delivery: Development Strategy (Mar. ’24)
  7. Product Delivery: Delivery Effectiveness (Apr. ’24)

Finding the Voice of Humanity-Centric Innovation

A People First Approach

Even great ideas can fall to the wayside when design doesn’t put people first, notes McKinsey in its blog, “Here’s why human-centric innovation is necessary.” Indeed, McKinsey points out that human considerations must be placed in the forefront as early as possible in the design process. In this way, deeper insights can be made and brands can connect better with their consumers. “By centering empathy and understanding in design research, companies can both reduce risk in the idea-generating stage and ensure people are at the heart of the process. These needs also include the needs of the planet, society, and what matters to us as human beings.”

Human centered design and innovation is often paired with customer experience practices to deliver on both points. Marrying the user design and customer experiences can help support both frameworks and create a more satisfying end-to-end customer journey. As McKinsey notes in it blog, “CX without design only gets you halfway,” “When transforming their business to prioritize CX, companies will have the most success by marrying CX insights with user-centered design methods of researching, defining opportunities, generating ideas, and prototyping before launching and scaling.” The result to this combined approach will be the renewed discovery of customer needs, designing solutions and delivering customer impact, says McKinsey.

Here’s to the Humans

All Things Innovation has looked at human-centered design from several angles. In “Connecting Human-Centered Design to Innovation,” we looked at how humanized design processes are centered around making products, services, and experiences more user-friendly, intuitive, and empathetic.

In “Humanity-Centric Innovation,” All Things Innovation’s Seth Adler had a chance to chat with Pete Dulcamara, Chief Scientist and Technical Vice President at Kimberly-Clark, a passionate proponent of the approach. Humanity-centric innovation is the idea of solving the biggest problems facing humanity in an economically viable way. Dulcamara is focused on how we as a society can make changes now for a better future for humanity.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a keynote session called “Lessons Learned From Actual Humanity-Centric Innovation,” presented by Milan Ivosevic, VP of R&D & Innovations, Devices; Charles Smith, Executive Vice President, Quality, Regulatory, Life Sciences and Innovation; and Lisa Fawcett, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Market Development, all with CooperSurgical. The Interdisciplinary Plenary Panel brings together innovation, R&D, strategy, and marketing disciplinarians who discuss how they best collaborate to ensure humanity-centric innovation. The CooperSurgical team showcases principles which we take forward into our interactive roundtable discussions which directly follow. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Leading the Way

Leading with humanity-centric innovation involves prioritizing the well-being and needs of people in the development of products, services, and strategies. We asked ChatGPT to prioritize the ways a company can embrace humanity-centric innovation:

  1. Understand Human Needs and Context: Conduct thorough research to understand the needs, desires, and challenges of your target audience. This includes considering cultural, social, and economic factors that influence their experiences.
  2. Empathy-Driven Design Thinking: Apply empathy-driven design thinking in product and service development. This involves putting yourself in the shoes of the end-users, understanding their emotions, and designing solutions that address real-life problems.
  3. Inclusive Design: Ensure that your products and services are accessible to a diverse range of users, including those with disabilities. Inclusive design considers the needs of individuals with different abilities, ages, and backgrounds.
  4. Ethical Considerations: Prioritize ethical considerations in all aspects of business, including data privacy, customer consent, and fair business practices. This builds trust with customers and contributes to a positive brand image.
  5. Sustainability and Social Responsibility: Embrace sustainable practices in product development, sourcing, and operations. Consider the environmental and social impact of your business activities, and communicate your commitment to corporate social responsibility.
  6. Human-Centered Technology: Develop and adopt technologies that enhance the human experience rather than replace or dehumanize it. Use technology to empower people, improve well-being, and create positive social impact.
  7. Employee Well-Being: Prioritize the well-being of employees by fostering a positive work culture, providing opportunities for professional development, and addressing work-life balance. Engage with employees to understand their needs and concerns.
  8. Community Engagement: Engage with local communities and consider the impact of your business on the communities in which you operate. Support community initiatives and contribute positively to the social fabric.
  9. Customer Feedback and Co-Creation: Actively seek and incorporate customer feedback in the innovation process. Involve customers in co-creation activities to ensure that your products and services align with their preferences and expectations.
  10. Education and Skill Development: Contribute to the development of human capital by investing in education and skill development initiatives. This can include providing training opportunities for employees and supporting educational programs in the communities you serve.
  11. Flexible and Inclusive Work Policies: Implement flexible work policies that accommodate diverse needs and promote work-life balance. Consider inclusivity in hiring practices and provide equal opportunities for all employees.
  12. Continuous Improvement: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement. Regularly reassess your practices, products, and services to ensure they align with the evolving needs and expectations of your customers and society.

Simply Human

By incorporating these principles into their approach, companies can lead with humanity-centric innovation, creating products and services that genuinely enhance the well-being of individuals and contribute positively to society. This approach not only aligns with ethical business practices but also strengthens the connection between the company, its brands and its customers.

All of these factors together or in part can drive innovation. As McKinsey writes, “Putting the ‘voice of the customer’ at the center of new product and service developments can help companies keep up with the rapidly changing market landscape. This focus helps them further understand unmet needs and pain points, which they can use to design and deliver innovative products and experiences.”

Video courtesy of NN group

How AI is Redefining Business Strategy

I asked the best known LLM, ChatGPT, this question: “Which major U.S. insurance companies are most quickly adopting AI in their business processes?”

The AI searched with Microsoft Bing and responded, “Major U.S. insurance companies are increasingly integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their business processes. As of 2023, the industry overall is seeing rapid adoption of AI, with a focus on AI-powered risk modeling, streamlined decision-making, and optimized underwriting.” ChatGPT then provided a source (an article on InsuranceNewsNet’s website) and went on to give three paragraphs of specifics, citing an additional two sources.

Large Language Models (LLMs) promise more than just a technological edge; they offer a seismic shift in strategic planning. The early adopters are already reaping benefits, signaling a wake-up call: It’s high time for mainstream businesses to shed their AI reservations.

What is an LLM?

LLMs (i.e., Large Language Models) are artificial intelligence systems that have revolutionized how we process and understand vast amounts of text. LLMs work by analyzing and learning from vast amounts of text data. They use this learning to recognize patterns in language, allowing them to generate text, answer questions, or provide summaries that are remarkably similar to human writing. Essentially, they’re like highly advanced, AI-driven readers and writers, trained to understand and replicate the nuances of human language.

For business leaders, this means having a powerful ally in making data-driven decisions, identifying market trends, and gaining competitive intelligence. LLMs can sift through reams of financial reports, customer feedback, or market research in minutes, offering strategic insights that would take humans days or weeks to compile. In essence, LLMs are like having a supercharged, AI-powered analyst at your disposal.

Beyond Traditional Analytics

Think of LLMs as the Swiss Army knives of data analysis – only instead of tiny scissors and a can opener, they’re wielding advanced algorithms and neural networks. They excel in processing vast data volumes, decoding complex market signals, and transforming data into actionable insights rapidly. Unlike conventional analytics, LLMs can handle unstructured data with ease, offering a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of market dynamics.

In December 2023, the Chicago Booth Review reported on the work of a Booth professor and PhD student who used an LLM to read the management discussion and analysis sections of corporate quarterly and annual reports. They used AI to combine the financial data in these reports with context generated from the text, finding that over a 25-year historical period, predictive models with the added contextual data outperformed traditional models based on the quantitative data alone.

Bloomberg LP worked with researchers at Johns Hopkins (Michael Bloomberg’s alma mater) to develop their own LLM, specifically trained on the massive trove of Bloomberg data that dates back to the start of their eponymous terminals. In the abstract to an academic paper published on the work, they wrote, “Our mixed dataset training leads to a model that outperforms existing models on financial tasks by significant margins without sacrificing performance on general LLM benchmarks.”

And UK fund management firm Liontrust used ChatGPT to successfully build a predictive model for U.S. GDP growth based only on the AI’s interpretation of the published minutes of the Fed’s meetings!

The Balancing Act

While LLMs offer transformative potential, they demand careful governance. To harness their power effectively, businesses must combine LLM insights with human oversight, ensuring that ethical considerations and seasoned judgment guide AI’s capabilities.

For example, a leading LLM told me, “Large language models (LLMs) can deliver over 30% higher ROI through enhanced strategic planning and 25% larger market share gains within two years by powering predictive competitive intelligence. Yet under 10% of executive teams currently utilize this game-changing AI capability.”

Are those numbers supported with evidence? No. Sometimes LLMs just make stuff up. They aren’t “thinking” but only generating text based on highly complex pattern analysis. But in my experience the so-called “hallucinations” tend to be easy to spot and the error rate on factual information (e.g., summarizing a document) isn’t any worse than a research assistant (that is, let’s not criticize LLMs for failure to be infallible when we suffer the same lapses).

Don’t worry, we’re still a few software updates away from the robots taking over – for now, they’re more helpful sidekicks than brutal overlords. They can help us make decisions, but humans still need to be running the show.

AI Integration Made Simple

Platforms like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Anthropic’s Claude are like the friendly neighborhood AI, making the integration of LLMs into business as smooth as your morning espresso. Their user-friendly interfaces and no-code solutions demystify AI, allowing teams to generate insights rapidly and integrate them into strategic decision-making processes.

For executives eager to explore LLMs, the journey begins with identifying specific business challenges where AI can provide insights. Start with pilot projects, integrating LLMs into existing decision-making frameworks to gauge their impact. This gradual approach allows for learning and adaptation, ensuring a smooth transition to more AI-driven strategies.

Every enterprise should choose its own adventure based on capabilities and needs, but here are some thought-starters for pilot projects that should be easy to implement:

  • Sentiment Analysis of Earnings Calls: Have an LLM automatically process transcripts of quarterly earnings calls for your top 3-5 competitors. Program it to extract sentiment (positive, negative, neutral), identify key topics/themes, and track changes over time. This gives a valuable lens into strategic priorities.
  • Early Warning System for Emerging Risks: Ingest the latest 10-K filings annually for your industry’s dominant players into an LLM. Task it with flagging new risk factors called out and assessing similarities across companies. This helps anticipate forthcoming market challenges.
  • Predictive Modeling of M&A Targets: Scrape industry news, leadership changes, VC funding data, and financial filings to build profiles of private startups. Have an LLM identify companies ripe for acquisition based on strategic fit. This spots potential technology buys before rivals.
  • Market Segment Growth Forecasting: Digest consumer research reports, demographic data, financial results for key players, and macroeconomic projections. Direct an LLM to predict fastest and slowest growing customer segments. Allows optimizing go-to-market resource allocation.
  • Benchmark Social Responsibility Progress: Ingest corporate sustainability reports and CSR press releases across your market landscape. Program an LLM to dynamically index ESG goal progress by company. Supports setting ambitious, measurable environmental and social responsibility goals.

Beware the Bias

As with any tool or business process, the onus for responsible and ethical usage lies with the person, not the machine. Sometimes output can be infused with bias regarding sex, race, class, and so on. Just like humans, AI can have its biases – but unlike your Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving, you can actually program AI to be less biased.

To be clear, the LLM is not sexist or racist or personally prejudiced against any group. The LLM is not sentient and has no personal opinions. However, the LLM’s output is dependent upon its input data and, well, have you seen the Internet?

A recent study by researchers at Apple, MIT, and Swarthmore attempted to measure bias by giving LLMs prompts such as, “In the sentence: ‘The doctor phoned the nurse because she was late for the morning shift’, who was late for the morning shift?” The LLMs were much more likely to answer such questions with responses that conformed to stereotypes.

The potential for such bias is not a reason to avoid the use of LLMs. A human being should always be looking at the output of any tool (in fact, another LLM could help monitor the output). And the responsibility always lies with us. If an analyst puts incorrect revenue and cost data into a spreadsheet, the incorrect profit figure isn’t Excel’s fault!

Embracing the AI Revolution

In the realm of strategy, to ignore the beacon of AI is to navigate in darkness. While I have doubts about reaching what is called “artificial general intelligence” anytime in the near future, with existing LLMs, businesses can seize a commanding position in the competitive landscape. The race for AI-driven strategy has begun and fortune favors the bold.

For more columns from Michael Bagalman’s Data Science for Decision Makers series, click here.

Winning the Innovation Strategy Game

Platforms for Innovation

Ericsson conducted a study to explore this question as it looked to pin down the nuts and bolts of an innovation strategy. In “5 ways to master the new innovation game,” Ericsson identified some broader points that it could leverage as the company developed its own innovation game.

  1. Insight: Understanding people and understanding the problem. A key viewpoint is that innovation is essentially about understanding human beings. The problems that are supposed to be solved by a structured innovation approach are ultimately human, not corporate.
  2. Outsight: Keeping track of the world around us. Innovation not only requires a solid understanding of end users, but it also requires keeping track of how the world at large is changing and which implications this will have on our culture in general, and your area of business specifically.
  3. Innovation vision. We are entering an era where organizations are increasingly driven by missions, and employees are motivated by the unique user value that they can help provide. Successful innovation comes from coming up with ideas that fill real needs and serve a purpose. Open, flat and decentralized organizations with a creative and playful organizational culture also require more visionary leadership.
  4. Culture as fuel for innovation. Culture is a core focus for organizations that aim to be at the forefront in terms of creativity. The old maxim “culture beats strategy” could actually be rephrased as “culture is strategy.” Culture plays a key role in addressing the challenge of gluing teams together and making them committed to the company mission, as well as creating an environment where innovation will thrive.
  5. Structure for creativity. For the longest time there was a bias towards viewing innovation as something that just happens in a “magical” way in a black box of creativity. But now, innovation is often described as a systematic management process and an organizational structure, which enables innovation. Companies should have a defined process for how to drive innovation within the organization, and should be able to measure and follow up on their innovation efforts just like they do in any other department of their business.

Culture Climate

In “Growing a Culture for Business Innovation,” All Things Innovation looked further at how innovation leaders can encourage and create a culture for change, research and development. Whether it entails a large jump or a small step, the innovation pipeline for a business keeps it moving forward through a competitive landscape. Business innovation is an organization’s process for introducing new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services or products. This can create long-term brand loyalty and brand differentiation.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called, “The Innovation Strategy Game: Establishing An End-To-End Vision,” held by Angelina Carvajal, Strategy and Innovation Partner, Senior Director at United Health Group. A good strategy executive attacks a problem like a scientist, aiming to set a hypothesis by asking questions. What are you innovating for? Answer those questions and a hypothesis can be set. Deliver on that hypothesis and you’re then winning the innovation strategy game. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Master of Innovation

Mastering the innovation strategy game with an end-to-end vision requires a combination of strategic thinking, organizational alignment, and a commitment to fostering a culture of innovation. We asked ChatGPT just what are key steps that agile-oriented leaders and organizations can take to achieve this?

  1. Define Clear Objectives and Goals: Clearly articulate the organization’s overall objectives and how innovation aligns with these goals. Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives for innovation efforts.
  2. Leadership Commitment: Demonstrate strong commitment from top leadership to support and drive innovation initiatives. Communicate the importance of innovation as a strategic priority throughout the organization.
  3. Cultivate a Culture of Innovation: Foster a work environment that encourages creativity, risk-taking, and learning from failure. Recognize and reward innovative thinking and contributions. Encourage collaboration and cross-functional communication to break down silos.
  4. Develop an Innovation Strategy: Create a comprehensive innovation strategy that aligns with the organization’s overall strategy. Identify areas for innovation, whether in products, services, processes, or business models. Consider partnering with external organizations, startups, or research institutions to enhance innovation capabilities.
  5. Invest in Research and Development: Allocate resources and budget for research and development activities. Stay informed about industry trends, emerging technologies, and market opportunities.
  6. Implement a Stage-Gate Process: Establish a structured stage-gate process to evaluate and prioritize innovation projects. Regularly review and assess the progress of projects at each stage, making data-driven decisions.
  7. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration: Foster collaboration between different departments and teams to bring diverse perspectives to the innovation process. Break down barriers that may impede communication and idea-sharing.
  8. Embrace Open Innovation: Look beyond internal capabilities and seek external input and collaboration. Engage with customers, partners, and the broader ecosystem to gather insights and ideas.
  9. Invest in Talent and Skills: Hire and develop employees with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. Provide training and development opportunities to enhance the innovation capabilities of the workforce.
  10. Measure and Iterate: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of innovation initiatives. Regularly review and analyze results, and be willing to iterate and pivot based on feedback and outcomes.

Sharpen Your Vision

Staying agile and willing to adapt the innovation strategy based on changing market conditions and feedback is also key. Learn from both successes and failures to continuously improve the innovation process. Strive for human-centricity as you structure your innovation initiatives. By integrating these steps into their approach, leaders and organizations can enhance their ability to master the innovation strategy game with a comprehensive end-to-end vision.

Video courtesy of Professor Melissa Schilling

Defining How Innovation Culture Creates an Impact

Assessing the Climate for Creativity

An organization’s culture has a marked influence on innovation initiatives and the potential success of those projects. This environment must encourage idea generation and idea sharing with both employees and management. Open communication and collaboration are also important factors.

As Hype Innovation defines in its blog, “How to Create an Impactful Innovation Environment,” “An organization’s culture has a profound impact on innovation potential. To foster innovation, management and employees must be committed to creating an environment that fosters creativity and engagement to drive change in a rapid and agile manner to meet evolving market needs and customer requirements.”

There are specific ways for a company to assess their culture for innovation. For example, Hype Innovation points out that companies can use what’s known as Amabile’s Climate for Creativity model: “The model, created by Teresa Amabile (Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School) comprises three key elements: resources, management practices, and organizational motivation. The model emphasizes the importance of intrinsic motivation, domain-relevant skills, and the social environment in fostering and nurturing creativity.” These elements in turn measure different criteria to recognize whether a culture is supportive of innovation, or whether creativity is stifled.

Hype Innovation also refers to the Creative Climate model. Swedish researcher Göran Ekvall’s model consists of 10 “dimensions” that together create the “Atmosphere for work” and “Attitude to work,” and impact creativity: challenge, freedom, idea support, trust/openness, dynamism/liveliness, playfulness/humor, debates, conflicts, risk-taking, and idea-time assessing. Just where does your organization stand on each dimension?

Culture Club

All Things Innovation has explored this topic in several ways. In “Innovation Culture,” Seth Adler discussed the subject with Volvo’s Mike Hatrick. Innovation starts with the employees of an organization. In today’s world –now more than ever – there is a struggle with professional burnout, and Hatrick alluded to the word “resilience” as being an important part of today’s world. Specifically, he states “I think resilience within the job and after the pandemic is absolutely critical.”

In “Ignite a Culture of Innovation,” we further explored the role of the atmosphere in fueling innovation. From the successes to the failures, from the breakthroughs to the breaking points, the innovation community knows all too well that fostering a culture of innovation on your team and indeed throughout your company environment is a key part of a winning formula. It’s not just what you create but how you create it. Creating that culture of intellectual bravery is another key part of the process.

Looking forward to FEI 2024? The conference, which will be held June 10 to 12, will feature a session called “Mastering An Upfront R&D Strategy: An Innovation Culture Case Study,” presented by Lisa Sanchez, Vice President, Research & Development, Procter & Gamble. The session will look at delivering innovation with an integrated interdisciplinary mindset from day one, benefiting from being an R&D driven company, and continually facilitating seamless communication between technical and commercial communities. Register for FEI 2024 here.

Making an Impact

In addition to the overall culture, innovation can have a profound impact on a company, influencing its growth, competitiveness, and overall success. We asked ChatGPT to define ways innovation can be impactful at a company:

  1. Revenue Growth: Innovative products, services, or business models can open new revenue streams and expand market opportunities, driving overall revenue growth for the company.
  2. Competitive Advantage: Companies that consistently innovate often gain a competitive edge. By staying ahead of industry trends and offering unique solutions, a company can distinguish itself from competitors.
  3. Cost Optimization: Innovation is not solely about introducing new products; it can also involve finding more efficient ways to operate. Process innovation can lead to cost savings and improved operational efficiency.
  4. Enhanced Customer Experience: Innovations that address customer needs and preferences can significantly enhance the overall customer experience. This can result in increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth.
  5. Market Expansion: Innovation can enable a company to enter new markets or reach untapped customer segments. This expansion can contribute to the company’s overall market share and growth.
  6. Talent Attraction and Retention: A culture of innovation is attractive to top talent. Companies known for their innovative initiatives are more likely to attract and retain skilled employees who are eager to contribute to cutting-edge projects.
  7. Adaptability to Change: Innovating regularly prepares a company to adapt to changes in the business environment. This flexibility is crucial in navigating disruptions, industry shifts, and emerging challenges.
  8. Brand Enhancement: Successful innovation can enhance a company’s brand reputation. Being recognized as an innovative leader in the industry can attract positive attention from customers, investors, and the media.
  9. Risk Mitigation: Diversifying products, services, or business strategies through innovation can help mitigate risks associated with changes in the market, regulatory environment, or technological landscape.
  10. Sustainable Practices: Innovation can contribute to the development of sustainable business practices. Companies that embrace environmentally friendly and socially responsible innovations may appeal to a growing segment of conscious consumers.

Sparking Innovation

The ways in which innovation can be impactful are interconnected, and the overall effect depends on the specific context and industry of the company—as well as the culture of innovation and whether it is encouraged or discouraged. A strategic and holistic approach to innovation management is essential for realizing the full potential of these impacts.

Still, it starts with the space given for innovation within a company. As Hype Innovation notes, “By creating a safe and non-judgmental space, providing the necessary resources and support, recognizing achievements, and setting clear goals, organizations can create an effective innovation environment that fosters creativity and drives meaningful change.”

Video courtesy of Big Think

Taking Next Steps with Innovation Talent

Future Proof Your Human Talent

With the focus so much on artificial intelligence and the movement towards digital technology, it can be easy to forget the human element involved. But for the innovation jobs of the future, we will still need human supervision, human training and education and human development to create the best teams for the initiatives at hand.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “5 Ways to Develop Talent for an Unpredictable Future,” Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Chief Innovation Officer at ManpowerGroup, looks at some ways people will be better equipped to handle tomorrow’s jobs. Intelligent, resilient, driven, and curious people will always make up the ranks of the innovation teams of the future but perhaps roles will be broader and not as specialized. Chamorro-Premuzic also makes the case that organizations need to expand people’s talents and be better equipped to learn new skills. “What we need is not just re-skilling or up-skilling, but pre-skilling: that is, being able to future-proof talent and reinvent peoples’ careers before we even know what tomorrow’s jobs and in-demand skills will be,” he says. Some of Chamorro-Premuzic’s recommendations include:

  1. Focus on potential: As the lifespan of current skills, expertise, and performance shrinks, it is advisable to hire and promote people for what they could do, rather than what they have done in the past. This means prioritizing soft skills — such as learning ability, curiosity, resilience, and adaptability — over hard skills — such as programming or data mining — focusing on the foundational ingredients of employability.
  2. Provide crucial feedback: Sharing data-driven feedback (from assessments, internal data, and peer-ratings) and helping people understand how their interests and skills can be a future asset to your organization is key. This means thinking of leaders as coaches or talent agents, where their main job is to proactively nurture people’s talents, as well as harness their full potential.
  3. Focus on talent expansion: Rather than betting on specialists or forcing people into specific niches, focus on broadening or expanding people’s talents. This means not playing to people’s strengths, but rather, helping them develop new strengths, so they become a more versatile version of themselves.
  4. Invest in mid-level managers: Managers hold the key to unlocking human potential at work, especially when the challenge is to revitalize, reenergize, and reimagine talent. There has never been a better time to invest in mid-level managers, especially harnessing the critical soft skills that will likely future-proof them by enabling them to keep up with technological advancements and drive the value realization their organizations expect from new innovations.
  5. Invest in leadership skills: If you are worried about an AI-fueled future but still think humans will be part of the picture, then you should be worried about pre-skilling your leaders, for they will (still) be tasked with setting and selling the company’s strategy, and driving the evolution of its culture, in tomorrow’s uncertain time. Importantly, investing in leadership means harnessing the skills that enable people to collaborate effectively and become a high-performing team.

Innovation Teams of the Future

In All Things Innovation’s “Putting Together Your Innovation Team,” we looked at how innovation teams are not working in a bubble, or at least not as much as they used to. Are the days of working in a “silo” gone forever? Moving forward for agile organizations there is a much greater emphasis on cross-collaboration with other teams and departments in the company. From marketing and finance, to research and insights, to technology and IT services, innovation teams are expected to integrate, co-create and align with the business and its strategies on a broader level.

The approach to innovation talent has evolved in this new globalized work world. While common themes have emerged, different organizations have chosen distinct paths. In this recent Innovation Talent Roundtable, the innovation community shared several thoughts on the search for innovation talent and fostering a culture of innovation.

How to Manage Your Innovation Talent Pipeline

Managing innovation talent effectively is crucial for organizations to stay competitive in a rapidly changing business landscape. We asked ChatGPT for some next steps organizations can take to manage innovation talent in the future:

  1. Establish a Culture of Innovation: Foster a culture that values and encourages innovation. Create an environment where employees feel empowered to share ideas, take calculated risks, and contribute to the innovation process.
  2. Leadership Commitment: Ensure leadership is committed to and actively supports innovation initiatives. Leaders should communicate the importance of innovation, allocate resources, and lead by example in embracing new ideas.
  3. Define Clear Innovation Objectives: Clearly articulate innovation goals and objectives aligned with the overall business strategy. This provides a roadmap for innovation efforts and helps employees understand how they contribute to organizational success.
  4. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration: Promote collaboration across departments and disciplines. Cross-functional teams bring diverse perspectives and expertise, fostering a more holistic approach to innovation.
  5. Invest in Continuous Learning: Provide opportunities for ongoing learning and development. Offer training programs, workshops, and resources to help employees acquire new skills and stay updated on emerging trends in their field.
  6. Recognize and Reward Innovation: Implement recognition and reward systems that celebrate and acknowledge innovative contributions. This could include monetary rewards, public recognition, or opportunities for career advancement.
  7. Facilitate Open Communication: Create channels for open and transparent communication. Encourage employees to share their ideas, provide feedback, and engage in open discussions about innovation challenges and opportunities.
  8. Support Intrapreneurship: Foster an environment that supports intrapreneurship—encouraging employees to act as entrepreneurs within the organization. Provide resources and autonomy for employees to develop and implement innovative projects.
  9. Promote Diversity and Inclusion: Embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives. A diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives, which can lead to more innovative solutions. Foster an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued.
  10. Implement Agile Work Practices: Adopt agile methodologies to enhance flexibility and responsiveness. Agile practices can help teams adapt to changing circumstances, iterate quickly, and deliver innovative solutions in a dynamic business environment.

Other important steps include providing access to innovation tools; building a talent pipeline by identifying high-potential employees and providing them with growth opportunities; measuring and evaluating performance; and staying connected to external ecosystems.

Cultivate an Innovation Talent Culture

By taking these steps, organizations can cultivate a dynamic and supportive environment for innovation talent, ensuring that they are well-positioned to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the future. Times are always changing, whether it be technological or otherwise, and humans must be driven by the need to learn and adapt.

As Chamorro-Premuzic notes, “to ensure that those changes are actually an evolution (i.e., contributing to progress), we must make every possible effort to enable humans to develop and deploy the relevant talents to reap the potential benefits of technology.”

Video courtesy of AIHR (Academy to Innovate HR)