GIE: Organizing for global innovation

The closing keynote speaker of the Global Innovation Exchange on Friday was Cheryl Perkins, founder of the InnovationEdge consultancy and former chief innovation officer at consumer products giant Kimberly Clark. In her excellent presentation, she focused on what organizations need to do in order to enable open innovation, and zeroed in on some organizational structures that appear to work particularly well: innovation councils, communities of practice and venture boards.

The closing keynote speaker of the Global Innovation Exchange on Friday was Cheryl Perkins, founder of the InnovationEdge consultancy and former chief innovation officer at consumer products giant Kimberly Clark. In her excellent presentation, she focused on what organizations need to do in order to enable open innovation, and zeroed in on some organizational structures that appear to work particularly well: innovation councils, communities of practice and venture boards.

Perkins explained how innovation councils and communities of practice work at Hewlett-Packard. They are broadly horizontal in scope, spanning multiple, diverse business units as well as growth incubators within the company. This provides a mechanism for innovation leaders throughout H-P’s many decentralized can share practices, experiences and processes, and helps to build alignment between them. These types of structures also help to drive innovation as a core value of the organization.

Kimberly Clark, Perkins’ former employer, utilizes venture boards to drive a steady stream of new product and market innovations. These board consist of a combination of internal innovation leaders and external experts, who help the company to identify “white space” business opportunities. These domain experts also help out the company by helping it to identify “watch out” areas in emerging technologies. Perkins reported that the members of these venture boards are all “C-level” people – chief innovation, marketing, financial and other officers. External experts must have 20-25 years of experience in their area of expertise in order to be considered for membership on a venture board.

In fast moving markets, another innovation model has emerged, typified by Nokia. Perkins explained how Nokia formed the Innovent group to identify companies and technologies that could disrupt their business. Its goal is to get close to these disruptors, providing them with help in developing their business plans and go-to-market strategies and, in some cases, making equity investments in these start-up companies or acquiring them. By investing in and partnering with them, Nokia is able to keep a closer eye on them, and prevents itself from being blindsided by these disruptors.

Perkins also talked at length about open innovation, and encouraged listeners to take a close look at the networks and ecosystems within which they do business – the partners, dealers, customers, competitors and other groups of people and companies that are involved with your business in one way or another. She recommends looking beyond what’s tangible (products) to the intangibles (such as brands and intellectual assets) to look for new business model opportunities. There are things you have, do and know that others in your network want or value. Look for opportunities to create win-win opportunities with them. She added that forming creative partnerships with other organizations in your network usually ends up moving your culture faster than any internal efforts at building your firm’s commitment to innovation.

This was a fascinating presentation, and I highly recommend you listen to it if you have an opportunity.

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