The role of Chief Innovation Officer, or Head of Innovation, is fast gaining traction and attention within various organisations and industries, but why is this happening now, what does it entail and who is best suited to fulfill the role? These were some of the questions I had in mind when I got an opportunity to spend the afternoon at a recent Chief Innovation Office Summit in London, UK.
The 2 day summit featured a host of speakers and topics related to innovation, including networking and hands-on workshops – because, after-all innovation is about deeds, not just words and ideas. The attendees list read like a who is who of Innovation leadership from new and established organisations. Some key takeaways include:
- The right Culture for Innovation – many more companies and individuals have recognised and are making tangible efforts to identify and address the need for innovation leadership in their industry. This will help nurture and promote desired behaviours to create and benefit from an innovation culture.
- Connecting people and ideas – It takes a combination of business, social and technology innovations to really make an impact – for example, a clean tech solution provider described how it’s solar power product creates income streams (business innovation) for roof owners who chose their aerodynamic solar panels (tech innovation) which can be installed without risky invasive fastenings onto rooftops. Also, they’re the biggest distributor of solar powered lamps in Africa (social innovation).
- Communication is key – the summit presentations provided a balanced a mix of vendors / service providers and end user organisations with real case studies to provide a fertile ground for sharing progressive thinking about innovation. Some of the presentations, innovative products, services and initiatives described or demo’ed at the event were indeed amazing to behold.
- Seeing is believing – For example, one of the sponsors demonstrated a 2 sided innovation approach with a workshop designed to allow participants to appreciate the need to address both external (your customers) and internal (your organisation) requirements for innovation. This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of innovation efforts, in my opinion. The question of ROI, aka what’s in it for your firm, will always trump even the most innovative customer solutions.
- The cool tech factor – Of course, the usual collection of toys and gadgets were on display from sponsors, vendors and attendees – e.g. I even had a photo op with Google Glass at lunch, courtesy of a fellow attendee – it seems wearable computing devices are de rigeur for every tech innovation conversation these days.
In conclusion, and to answer some of my initial questions, it is obvious that more people and organisations are looking to innovate in order to survive and thrive in today’s business environment, and this event highlighted the continuous need for dialogue and cross-fertilization of ideas between all stakeholder. Therefore the role of a Chief Innovation Officer is suited to someone who understands the need to nurture the culture, make connections and communicate with all stakeholders about innovation. In Capgemini, our innovation groups understand the triple need to nurture, connect and communicate innovation across an ecosystem of partners, clients, employees, suppliers, and even competitors, in order to realise the full benefits from innovation.
Full marks out of ten for the summit organisers and I certainly look forward to participating, and perhaps even presenting, at another one of their excellent series of events.
Over the past few months, I had several opportunities to engage in the conversation about the role of Intellectual Property (IP) in the new world of Digital, and in so doing, I’ve managed to tease out certain key questions and concerns surrounding this topic, e.g.: What challenges and opportunities does IP bring to the Digital feast? How does the ‘sharing’ economy affect established notions of IP, and how effective are current efforts to update and harmonise IP in the digital age? The answers are slowly revealing themselves, but the following observation points will hopefully highlight the way.
What is Digital?
The term “Digital” means different things to different people, (including those that consider it an extremely irritating term for something old repackaged as a new ‘buzzword’). In my opinion, the term Digital can be used to describe various new and emerging products / services / processes / user behaviours etc., that are enabled by digital technology. It works equally well in describing innovative, disruptive trends (e.g. big data and predictive analytics) and / or re-imagination of pre-existing technologies (e.g. Cloud).
How does IP figure into it?
Intellectual property is the concept and mechanism through which creators and owners of “works of the mind” may derive economic benefits from their works (e.g.: inventions, designs, works of art, and trademarks). By its very nature, IP is constantly challenged by those self same things for which it was designed – e.g. printing press, audio-visual capture, playback and distribution technologies, and even this new fangled 3D printing. The Digital world merely amplifies an age old problem which reappears with alarming regularity with each new shift or breakthrough in technology. However, this particular incarnation also begs the question of whether the concept of IP is intrinsically flawed in a digital universe
Key Trends in society / technology / business
In any discussion on this topic (i.e. IP and the digital economy), you’ll invariably pick upon certain trends as key catalysts for change, which typically fall into any of following groups: socio-economic trends, technology trends and business trends. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and give it a try with any of the following trends e.g.: social media, aging population, real-time dynamic pricing, predictive analytics, digital transformation, 3D printing, and even “sharing economy”. Such trends are redefining how we live and do business in a digital world, but are they all merely symptoms of the same phenomenon?
How will law and regulation keep up?
Not very well, I’m afraid. How can we best apply governance to emerging phenomena such as Digital? To say it is very difficult would be an understatement, considering that these changes also affect the law, and law makers, too. This is a perfect example of what city planners and business school professors consider to be a “wicked problem”. Existing rules of society and international law struggle to encompass the global reach and impact of digital technologies whereby information can spread, at the speed of light, to all corners of the world heralding the lofty dawn of unified global thought, sentiment and action, or anarchy. In order to remain relevant and useful, the concept of IP needs a major rethink and rework to align with a dynamic digital landscape. However, this is not the preserve of a few sovereign governments, and more needs to be done (at an international, collaborative level) to even begin nursing any hope of having an impact on Digital and human cultural evolution.
Digital transformation and business model innovation
In my opinion, the future of business lies in the ability to reinvent itself and take best advantage of the constantly emerging game-changing technologies, products, services, and usage paradigms. One such avenue is via business model innovation – a technique that makes use of a simple business model canvas to articulate any business model, in a fast and dynamic way. Technology is no longer a barrier to entry, therefore the true measure of fitness must have to do with a business model’s flexibility and adaptability (for competitive advantage) in the digital universe.
In summary, and regardless of where I’ve held these conversations (e.g. at the Copyright and Technology Conference, or Digital Economy and Law Conference, and even at the BCS, Chartered Institute for IT), these same questions and concerns have become a recurring theme.
Ps. I will look to delve into these topics at my next speaking event, on the 22nd of January 2014, and hope to provide further insight and provocative questions on digital economy and IP. Also, we’ll get to hear a speaker from one of the world’s foremost organisations at the forefront of Digital. Don’t miss it (or at least come by and say hello), if you happen to be in London on that day.
Digital technology has brought unprecedented change across all business sectors, and very few organisations can claim to be unaffected by the information age (e.g. via internet, mobile, social channels). However, this does not always translate to a need for that cause-all / cure-all catchphrase of technology or digital transformation.
Below are five commonly held myths associated with digital technology and enterprise transformation:
1 – Technology really drives the business
Only if your business is about creating and / or selling new technology, otherwise this is tantamount to placing the cart before the horse, or the tail wagging the dog – it may be possible, but not necessarily a good idea. The fact is that technology places way down the list of drivers for business change. Gartner’s Nexus of Forces which combine to impact businesses, although enabled by technology, relate mainly to changing paradigms (i.e. big data / cloud) and behaviours (i.e. social / mobility) rather than just pure technology
2 – Change technology; change your business
No, not really. Technology change is not the same thing as technology enabled change. The former relates to tools, whereas the latter is about the purpose for which said tools are used or acquired. For example, buying and using Salesforce will not automatically make yours a more customer centric organisation. Digital technology transformation is less about technology than the outcome of an architected approach to delivering fast, flexible and responsive services to customers
3 – Transform now or die!
Not all businesses will need to undergo an immediate or full blown technology change programme, as sometimes the only change required may just be around processes or service focus. A change in culture could have more significant and lasting impact in some organisations. For example, shifting from a reactive customer support environment towards proactive customer engagement will yield better results even if the tools remain the same!
4 – You need a team of tech-savvy whiz kids to transform your business
False. Most of the advantages of new digital technologies come from ability to provide fast and flexible services connected / delivered through standardised interfaces, which don’t require expert knowledge of the source system. The role of IT is fast evolving into an orchestrator and governor of the various external / internal services (including legacy systems / applications) that must work together to deliver said fast, flexible and responsive services to the internal / external customer
5 – The need for digital transformation will one day come to an end
No, no, no. There can be no real end to continuous digital evolution, especially when the rate of change is actually on the increase, no doubt spurred on by knock-on effects of fast changing technologies, user behaviours, customer expectations and competition. The ideal business lifecycle must embrace a process of continuous improvement with allowance for testing new business models, implementing changes (including technology related ones), evaluating the outcome, making further tweaks, and repeating the entire process all over. This cannot stop because as soon as an optimal solution is achieved the business environment changes again, thus necessitating another cycle
In summary, and perhaps somewhat ironically, digital technology is neither the root cause nor cure-all for many challenges facing organisations today. The need for transformation is often triggered by changing environments and / or behaviours (e.g. by customers, suppliers, partners or competitors), perhaps in combination with some innovation (technology based or otherwise), that ultimately impacts their bottom line.
Perhaps fittingly the real business impact of technology transformation comes from how it is deployed and used by the people within and outside the organisation. Each organisation must make the effort to understand its own particular situation, and to discover the right way forward. It is not an easy task, but with the right attitude and motivation from the top, it will be relatively less painful than just doing nothing.
Last year, I wrote a post on the above topic discussing, among other things, the approach proposed by Games organisers to tackle such sharp practices as “ambush marketing” and “unfair association with the Games”. They even produced a list of restricted words and phrases (including: Olympic, Paralympic, London Games, 2012 etc) to protect brand exclusivity and sponsorship preorgatives. However, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and when the world’s fastest 100M athlete cheekily commandeered a photographer’s camera to take pictures of the photographers, spectators and fellow athletes, a rather interesting debate was ignited in a popular photography magazine forum, mainly about copyright and ownership rights of those pictures, which were subsequently published by the photographer in his own newspaper.
The forum discussion can be found here, and it includes the following key questions:
- Who owns the rights to the pictures taken; Is it Usain Bolt, or the Photographer (i.e. owner of the camera and memory card)?
- Does the fact that the camera and memory card (including photographic data) remain property of the photographer have any bearing on rights ownership to Bolt’s pictures?
- Should Bolt have any right to the art (or computerised data) that he created on equipment he does not own? (this one prompted comparisons with a Banksy grafitti art on someone’s wall)
- Does the photographer’s publication of the picture (presumably without permission) violate Bolt’s rights as ‘artiste’, or arguably as copyright owner?
- What about the venue / organisers rules and conditions regarding accredited photographers and their works?
All very good questions, and no doubt something a good IP lawyers can argue for and / or against, depending on who is paying the fees, but suffice it to say that the best comment, in my opinion, came from a forum member who reminded others that “copyright subsists upon the creation of the art…” and that it rightfully belongs to the individual creating the art, i.e. Usain Bolt, in this instance. Furthermore, I would add that the author of an original work, even if not the copyright owner, also has the moral right to seek redress against any objectionable use of the work.
*Images sourced, from left to right:
- http://www.petapixel.com/2012/08/09/usain-bolt-nabs-photographers-dslr-snaps-awesome-pov-shots/ (camera owner in red circle)
The end of a successful London 2012 Olympics, heralds a return to reality not least for the people of London who played host to the world for two straight weeks. Numerous events, achievements and incidents occurred during the week, but a critical factor for me was the superb organisation which provide some great lessons for any business to embrace and emulate.
Below are four great lessons from the London 2012 Olympic Games:
- Never promise too much – the organisers of London 2012 did not promise more than they could deliver. In fact, the closing ceremony performance at the Beijing 2008 Games gave little hint of what was to come as the Olympic flag was handed over to London Mayor, Boris Johnson
- Wow them with your opener – The opening ceremony for London 2012 was a real eye opener for people on just what the Games could deliver, and they did not disappoint.
- Deliver the goods – The most important part of the Olympics are the games, and London 2012 successfully delivered in terms of: organisation, audience participation (apart from early issues with rare tickets vs. empty seats), television coverage (the BBC coverage was outstanding), and a remarkable medal haul for the host nation.
- Be gracious in your exit – The games concluded with a music laden closing ceremony, and the Olympic flag was passed with some aplomb to Brazil, the next host nation which also gave a taste of what to expect in Rio de Janeiro come 2016. Even the departure experience at Heathrow Airport was something to write home about.
“Successful”, “fantastic”, “enjoyable”, “brilliant” were some of the descriptive words used by athletes, volunteers, organisers and spectators at these last Games, and those are words that any business should like to hear coming from their clients, customers, employees and partners.