Innovators share the lessons they’ve learned during 2010

The annual innovation lessons summary, based exclusively on on the comments received from readers, contains fascinating insights about the year that recently ended, and points to some of the innovation challenges and opportunities we need to address to be successful in the new year.

In December 2010, I posed this question to InnovationTools readers:

“What is the most important lesson you learned regarding innovation during 2010?”

Thank you for sharing your insights! A lot of your comments touched on the challenges of innovating under difficult economic conditions. Many of them are hopeful, but others have a pessimistic overtone. Clearly, innovation is being challenged as organizations struggle to survive in today’s challenging times.

Attracting the right partners is critical to innovation success

My biggest learning about innovation in 2011 is to be more diligent about attracting the right kind of collaborators and partners. Collaboration is central to innovation – one that I have sometimes underplayed, intoxicated by my own ideas, intuitions, and right-brained generated plans. The result? I have sometimes chosen collaborators prematurely and the outcomes have been less than satisfactory. So I am beginning to be a lot more thoughtful and particular about WHO I want to partner with and how our complementary skill sets blend alchemically. That effort includes slowing down to clarify agreements, expectations, shared vision, and the details of our working relationship.

- Mitch Ditkoff, Idea Champions

Management support is key

To understand the lesson I have learned it must be noted that our company has a large amount of staff set in their ways and have been at this company for 20-25 years.

As a non-management employee in a company that has just changed to have innovation in our vision statement (To become a leading global product innovator). I have learned that it is not easy to get people on board to present ideas that could identify innovative solutions, no matter how easy or complex.

It is so important that the innovative message is sold to staff and continually backed up by management endorsing any ideas that come through.

So in summary I suppose the main lesson is that innovation within a company is cultural and needs strong leadership to define its direction.

- Paul Ryder , Jade Software Corporation

Innovation and systems thinking

We have seen a more concerted effort to consider innovation from a systems thinking perspective, as opposed to focusing on a particular killer-innovation that will revolutionize a narrow field of performance or service. At the same time the economic environment has not muted the battle between cost saving/cutting and increased investments in innovation. Indeed, we are seeing more customer requirements statements that demand innovation, improved performance and service, and reduced costs. Sometimes, it seems that the requirements treat innovation like a commodity. Like forecasting that prevents blindsiding, customers want “some of that innovation.” These demands call for more sophisticated ways to explain and justify innovation.

Separately, there has been a dramatic increase in social innovation efforts, with parallel concentration on metrics for innovation effects that are sometimes lacking in commercial and government projects.

- Jim Burke, TASC, Inc.

Social networking and innovation

My most significant innovation lesson in 2010 was how social networks are a legitimate vehicle to find the varied talents necessary for driving innovation. I worked in one corporation for many years and left near the start of 2010. One result was the need to dramatically change the composition of the talented, in-person team that had kept me sharp and creating innovative approaches in a B2B environment.

Since my corporate creative team members didn’t use social networking as aggressively, I met an array of new talents from around the world who form a very different extended creative team. These connections yielded new business partners, teachers, clients, potential clients, readers, friends, experts, creative instigators, confidants, and collaborators. The roles essential to my creative team are now accounted for in very new ways. Absent social networking’s capability to establish and sustain relationships along different dimensions, I shudder to think where my personal innovative perspective would be!

- Mike Brown, The Brainzooming Group

Innovation is everyone’s right

Innovation is the pursuit of perfection, therefore elusive and eternal, a bottomless pit of possibilities that we have to continue to mine. It is not the exclusive domain of the few but a basic right of the individual to improve his/her lot in life.

- Ambi Mathe, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology

Parallels between building your muscular core and innovation

Ideation is not innovation. The “fuzzy front end” is just that.  It is easy to get excited about something “warm and fuzzy.” The “lessons learned” this year for me is the importance of process over tools to flow and grow innovation through the organizational culture. Innovation is not a “point solution” to any problem and innovation tools apart from a broader context of their purpose can lead to the “flavor of the month” syndrome for the innovation community.  Intentional, strategic, process-driven innovation is like a body workout. The muscles have to go through a range of motion they are not used to resulting in some aches that go away as the muscles are strengthened and built. The innovation process similarly takes time, and the organizational change to accomplish it can be painful before you see measurable and sustainable results and,  just like exercise,  there is typically more talk about innovation than action.

- Don Pital, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute

Critical success factors for innovation

In  today’s economy, companies need the ability to develop and launch innovative products and solutions as fast as they can to be competitive.

Some issues are critical for the success of innovation initiatives:

1. Implement a creative and innovation Culture and strategy based on Knowledge

2. Understanding of customer future needs and Focus on the customer:

3. Use as much all the learning ways and processes

4. Look for the future in terms of skills and Knowledge

5. Manage relations and entrepreneurship.

6. Avoid a status quo mentality and be creative with initiative and leadership

7. A good project management and resources involved It’s a must 

8. always analyze results against objectives and goals and learn with the past experiences

- Pedro Ferreira, GlobalScore

Ideation vs. innovation

One of the biggest lessons I have learned this year is the misconception between ideation and innovation. Many people think that ideas are what drives innovation – and they then put a lot of focus on ideation as the ‘innovation process.’ A very close cousin to this misconception is thinking that creativity is innovation – and hence putting a lot of energy and focus on ‘being creative’ as the key part of an innovation process.

In our experience a true innovation process actually begins with strategy and strategic thinking which connects to a portfolio approach that focuses research and informs the ideation process. Ideation leads to insights which then start a whole process of turning insights into innovations that require market development and sales to complete the entire cycle. Ideation and creativity are the middle of an innovation process and not the beginning or end.

- Michael Kaufman, InnovationLabs LLC

Don’t overlook creative ideas

The most important lesson I learned during the year of 2010 about innovation was that we miss a lot of new creative ideas because we haven’t worked enough to convert it in real innovative solutions.

- Rolando Barbosa Rodrigues, Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto (Portugal)

Innovation paradoxes

Problems are limited by the abstraction level one chooses to apply.

I will briefly address the Innovation Paradoxes of Time, Control and Knowledge. We can learn the right lessons by solving these paradoxes.

Time and timing

There never is enough Time for innovation. About this problem is a wide consensus in the world of innovation experts exists.

The solution is situated in the definition of time. We are preoccupied by chronological time, symbolized by the Greek god KRONOS.

The solution can be found in the organization of the right moment for innovation and then KAIROS is our god. The right moment is more likely to happen in organizations with an innovative culture or climate


Innovation managers still have the nasty habit of leading innovation by using old fashioned control mechanisms while real new leadership is required.

Let’s focus on the relation between leader and follower. Basic mechanism in this relation then ought to be the presence of coherence, also known as flow.

Managers who know how to inspire their followers are able to induce a feeling of coherence in their followers. Then innovation will prosper from leadership and performance beyond expectation.


The Netherlands suffer from the Knowledge paradox. It is falsely believed that there is too little transfer of knowledge from universities to business life.

This is a false belief because there is no problem with knowledge transfer but with the concept of knowledge itself.  The logic in use in the innovation world is that of knowledge as an objective entity.

Here we need a reconstructed logic that considers knowledge as a justified belief that emerges from social interaction.

- Herman Hoving PhD, Panta Rheyn

Be more aggressive and look beyond product innovation

There were two main things that struck me the most this year.  First, that many senior business leaders continue to focus on innovation as a product or service only proposition.  The global consumer mindset has changed dramatically, and it seems that consumers are going to want more value from their purchases, which can be thought of as customer experience.  It isn’t more features or functions or price, but the emotional value in the attraction, usage and extension of their interaction with a purchase that people are seeking.

Secondly, many businesses seem to continue to focus on incremental changes in their products and services, and their resources are being expended on either advertising on the internet or minimal changes to their offerings.   Business leaders may be neglecting the fact that Chinese and Indian firms are expanding and will compete in all global markets going forward, and companies may not be expanding their overall innovation portfolio aggressively enough to meet this competitive challenge.

In 2011, it is my hope that business leaders will see that transformations need to occur organizationally, and within systems and environments to make their customers more satisfied, and to help their employees become more successful and effective.  The terms innovation, transformation, and strategy should all become more tightly integrated.

- Roy Luebke, innovation consultant

Innovation and marketing need to be linked more strongly

In keeping with Peter Drucker’s work, I agree with him that there are two, and only two, activities that add value to any business:  innovation and marketing, everything else a business does is a cost.  My views are that we spend a lot of time talking about innovation in terms of finding new ideas, developing new products or services, or working the innovation process to eventually generate products or services that become part of the core business or create new businesses.  However, not much effort is expended on linking innovation and marketing, as Drucker says we should.  In many cases that I’ve experienced, Marketing, and by connection Sales, tend to be the biggest barriers to moving the innovation process forward.  Enlightened marketing strategies connected to an innovation engine that continually generates, vets and fertilizes new ideas is one true key to profitable growth in virtually any business.  So I’ve been trying to connect the dots between Innovation and Marketing during the last year, and have seen some interesting and positive results from the effort.

- Charlie Alter, Bentbrook Advisors LLC

We need to get our innovation terminology straight

Words and context.  The language of innovation.  People don’t move forward or get results until they know what they are doing, or talking about.   I’ve come to appreciate that most of the confusion around innovation comes from the variety of ways we use the term (as a process, tool, mindset, skill set, principle, philosophy, etc).  Because we use the term so often without defining the context, we have created a term that means so many things to most it means nothing.

- Liz McCormick, Grand Rapids Community College

Innovation needs to be more structured, more dialogue driven

I believe that the two fundamental lessons from 2010 relate to:

1. The need to establish a robust process of innovation in the organization: steps, team roles and communication of strategies and achievements.

2. The need for executives and employees to understand that innovation takes place through the processes of dialogue and strategic discussions within the organization. It is not only laboratory processes and research. It is essentially a conversational process

- Jesús Sánchez Martorelli, Unete a la Comunidad de Gerencia Estratégica

A systematic way to grow innovations

My most valuable learning is that i figured out a systematic way to grow Ideas into Innovations. I have been working on this for about 3-4 years now.

I developed a framework (Innovation Flow) and implemented it across various technology / R&D groups.

I used Innovation Flow framework to conduct focused brainstorming in meerging technologies and create strategic intellectual property. I have summarised my key learnings here.

What does it take to grow good Ideas into valuable Innovations ?

1. Ability to focus on the real innovation opportunity

Technology innovations can make a big difference in emerging markets

For every ten good technical ideas, only one may lead to a technology innovation

We need to figure out ways to bridge the gap between ideas and  innovations

2. Ability to escape from current paradigms

While managing technology innovations we may need to question some of our basic assumptions about Customers, Expertise and Rewards.  You may be surprised, but there are times when it helps:

(a) not to listen to the customer?
(b) not to involve the experts during Ideation? 
(c) not to rewardinnovators

3. Ability to move from ideas to holistic solutions

Innovation is about (a) creating insightful ideas and (b) taking them successfully to the Market. Many creative folks fear that a structured approach may kill their creativity – I don’t wish to debate on that aspect.  Honestly, I don’t understand from where my ideas originate and how exactly they evolve. But what I have learnt and what I believe organizations can benefit from is that – you need a systematic process to takes ideas successfully to the market.

My approach is to take the Innovation team systematically through four phases – exploration, creation, differentiation and evaluation. I have developed a framework, Innovation Flow, to facilitate this process. Innovation Flow helps Innovators to (a) focus on the real innovation opportunity (b) escape from current paradigms and constraints and start thinking fresh (c) move on successively to stronger solutions that are closer to Ideality.

- Dr. M.V Shankar, Honeywell Technology Solutions Ltd.

More room for experimentation is needed

Organizations need to give room for experimentation. The large majority of organizations are built for productivity, repeatability and predictability. This makes them largely adverse to experimentation of new ways/methods/techniques/organization to better innovate.

The most successful R&D or R&I managers I have met have been conducting changes in their organization by encouraging experimentations before selecting what was the most effective for them.

- Eric Gabas-Varini, Innovation Framework Technologies

The lip-service/real innovation gap remains large

Sadly, 2010 served up more of the same with respect to the state of innovation management…a lot of talk and very little walk.  The gap between those organizations who understand and fully engage in innovation management concepts and those who simply pay “lip service” to the approach remains wide.  Volatile credit markets, weak employment and uncertainty in the economic environment continued to play a larger role in organizations than a focus on organic growth or a return of R&D funding to pre-”crisis” levels.  Open innovation, however, gained some ground among innovation leaders, which was refreshing to witness and may serve as a bell-weather for returning to the “new normal.”

The biggest personal and professional lesson learned in 2010 was the awakening of a desire to contribute to the field of innovation rather than compete within it.  To that end, we have challenged ourselves for 2011, including the conversion of our entire business model, to serve the greater good through research, development and delivery of exciting new approaches, tools, techniques and models for identifying problems, generating ideas and executing effective and efficient new processes for innovation. 

- Paul R. Williams, American Institute for Innovation Excellence

People “fit” is key to innovation success

I learned that people will flourish when they are in an environment that is right for them.

- Frank Calberg, Frank Calberg Services

Managers need to better understand creativity and innovation

I discovered that the great majority of executives, dealing with creativity, invention, innovation and change do not have a clear idea of how those terms are connected in the corporate innovative flux.

- Ruy Donald

The relationship between innovation and leadership

No innovation happens until someone does something.  Great meetings, great brainstorms, great ideas and great plans mean nothing unless a decision is made to allocate resources and implement something new.  Innovation and leadership live in the same house.  Innovation needs decisive leaders who are prepared to take calculated risks.  And leaders need innovation because a leader always changes an organization.

- Paul Sloane, Destination Innovation

You can’t maintain the status quo AND innovate

A huge impedance mismatch exists between the actual mindset of those who lead large and medium-sized businesses and the mindset needed for innovation. They know intellectually that they need to innovate, but they require it be done with no changes to process, structure, or beliefs that the executives hold.  Thus establishing a culture of innovation fails.

Until and unless the leaders of an organization not only embrace but actually become innovation, their efforts will fail.  Transformation of their business requires change in the minds of the leaders.

- Richard Johnson

Clear out existing ideas to make room for new ones

I would say my lesson is never to forget an old lesson…

Never to forget, how busy people are talking about, and pushing their existing, already communicated ideas, when coming to creating new ones. Not to underestimate to take the time to clear out all those existing ideas, before you can start creating/thinking new ones, and put them aside. Not throwing them away but not allowing them to block off the new ideas…

- Louise Hintze, Realize AB

Be aware of innovation research

In 2010 I cannot say I learned any one thing big and new. However, I learned and confirmed many smaller things thanks to a growing pile of research papers, based on empirical research, on creativity and innovation. These papers destroyed a number of assumptions that have been prevalent in the field, such as those about rewarding ideas and voting in suggestion schemes. Newly published research also identified new issues that every innovation practitioner should be aware of, such as collaboration problems across teams with multiple mother tongues or the value of distance in idea generation exercises.

As innovation becomes standard practice, we can expect to see more such research. It can only help businesses that want to become more innovative.

- Jeffrey Baumgartner, JPB

The “soft” side of innovation

My key discovery on innovation this year in the energy industry in software/system development/productivity/business redesign environment is innovation cannot be mandated by management.  It is a gift that a group of individuals create and give or offer up when their hearts and minds align as a group.  Little attention given to the soft side, the culture, the respect team members get that they respond to by yielding their insights, intellect, their ideas, their creative capital.  In this economy the innovation has a soft side. It is a gift you earn when you respect project team members.  I just finished a personal end of year audit on a real time analytics system that went through two rebirths, was late and dying six months ago when I was parachuted into deployment and service intro roles.  I do a personal case study on high performance and innovation by team. I kept coming to the conclusion that relationships and respect fostered innovation breakthroughs.

- Ravi Sodhi

Innovation is a highly subjective term

“Innovation” lies almost totally in the eye of the beholder, i.e., their creative (cognitive) type and their personality style (Meyers Briggs) significantly drives how people define, explain, see and understand innovation.

In our School for Innovators and with Thinking Expedition teams, we early on group people into Table Teams of four who are alike or closely similar in terms of their cognitive style and personality type.  We then ask each person independently to write out their definition of “innovation” and the characteristics of it.  They then pair up, compare and discuss, and each table reaches consensus on a single definition and a list of characteristics. In a group of 16 to 24 people, the differences across the 4 to 6 tables is surprisingly different and differing in what each group thinks is important.

- Rolf Smith, The School for Innovators

Shift your mindset from technology to your customer to see innovation opportunities

At the moment I think the most important lesson about innovation I learned this year, is a somewhat better understanding of the saying from Albert Einstein, that you cannot solve a problem on the level on which it occurs. That means for example in my industry – digital signage – that almost no customer is really interested in any technology feature in detail; he or she is just interested if it helps to solve a certain problem, such as enhancing the communication of an enterprise. And here I need to step back almost completely from the technology-knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of what is important to my customer. When I have achieved this, then I can start to look for the best technological solution – and how to implement it in a way that will be as well accepted as maintained.

So I start at technology-innovation, move completely to psychology, take a look at technology again, and back to the people – as the most important focus.

- Anette Metzger

Don’t get too attached to an idea

Don’t get emotionally invested in chasing after any one innovation or idea, they are like buses, there will be another along soon enough. But for the same reason, don’t hesitate to capitalize on an innovation project now, because there may be a better innovation which will make it irrelevant in an instant.

- Ian M. C. Cole, JFS Marketing

Without solid financials, innovation flounders

My innovation key learning for 2010 is that financials are more important than bright ideas, well design business plans, trust and confidence.

In earlier year I always argued that ideas, an innovative business climate, good products with a lot of potential are more important than looking on balance sheets. If you want to innovate, you have to look ahead. But while it is comparably easy to analyze a product and its potential, calculate business plans and secure its funding, I today must admit, financials can be a critical.

This year we were about to fund a small manufacturer of special purpose furniture. We reviewed and optimized the business plan, including market research and product and sales strategies. Late in the process all financial information was disclosed and it revealed a disaster. Nevertheless we found a way forward to work round this issues but the owner of the small firm apparently was shocked by this findings. He stepped back from the deal.

My lesson learned: first look back and clear the mess. Business planning is still essential but for me it is step two now.

- Jürgen H. Stäudtner. Cridon, Inhaber

People need to feel safe to come up with big ideas

Until you create a safe environment and an expectation of truly big thinking, most people in large companies default to small ideas. Good, but small.

- John Malnor, Steelcase

Needs-based innovation

Innovation, like any other service, need to be aligned with real needs.

- Jenaro Sanchez, consultant

The importance of a strong innovation ecosystem

It’s not so much the quality of the idea that leads to success (although obviously you need a great idea to start with!), it is the health and viability of your innovation ecosystem that supports all aspects of the idea lifecycle – i.e. creativity, development and value realization. It is the job of the agile innovation leader to create and nurture the eco-system in order to maximize the value of the ideas passing through it.

- Simon Evans, InnovoFlow Ltd.

Like Nike, just do it!

When it comes to innovation often the charm of personality is more influential than the power of authority. Being an innovation evangelist, I have three charters at Wipro: Making people realize the imperative of innovation; familiarizing them with various tools and techniques of creative thinking; and to stimulate new ideas and opportunities using those tools. Over past few years, the biggest takeaway way is don’t wait for the right people or the right time, just do it. Don’t even wait for someone to give you the title of “head of innovation” or something of that sort; take your chances and start building on those capabilities. One last word – my experience reaffirms the dictum: It is better to seek forgiveness than to ask for permission.

- Pavan Soni, Wipro

Innovation needs to be as structured as other corporate functions

I believe that the two fundamental lessons 2010 relate to:

1. The need to establish a robust process of innovation in the organization: steps, team roles and communication of strategies and achievements.

2. The need for executives and employees to understand that innovation takes place through the processes of dialogue and strategic discussions within the organization. It is not only laboratory processes and research. It is essentially a conversational process

- Jesús Sánchez Martorelli, Fundación Gerencia Estratégica

Organizing for innovation

There is a chasm between “letting innovation happen” and “organizing innovation”. It doesn’t just happen in most organizations, and it can be organized to death in others. Innovation can “emerge” when the right people get together in the right circumstances, but organizing meetings to “be innovative” don’t always work. An organization can’t just stand back and hope innovation happens, but it takes the right actions, the right people, and the right circumstances to make it work.

- Michael Embry, Sabre

Free up the latent capabilities of your organization

Imagine, for a while, that top managers, governments and politicians in general, would limit themselves to setting the objectives, allocate resources and provide the means to measure the performance of designated teams of knowledgeable employees and citizens who would determine how these objectives could be attained. Imagine how much innovation we could have if those who know were allowed to do what is needed.

- Fernando Sousa, Apgico

A quartet of brief innovation lessons

The process of innovation must be simple. Ask for partners to fill the gaps of your company. Do not use the number of ideas/innovations to measure the success of the innovation process. Create a good environment to innovate.
- Paulo Manoel Dias, Brazilian Mail Company (Correios)

The power of asking “What if?”

Don’t stay within the lines that were drawn years ago. Turn the paper sideways and change everything. The most successful people will adapt their role to provide value in collaborative relationships. What stops most companies from innovation is hesitation due to uncertainty. But when you cast aside uncertainty and Start to ask “What if,” you will unleash the unlimited possibilities to discover new opportunities from existing resources. We must reorder our priorities. We must face reality and do what works best. Kids have learned to handle change. They take it in stride. They enjoy it. They bend. They love variety. We need to act like children again and create a culture that knows how to learn. You must transcend the conflicts and concerns of the moment. You must provide a basis for inspiring and getting results efficiently through our combined wisdom.

- James Feldman, Synectics Open Solutions, LLC

It’s not magic – really!

Innovation is not black magic: It’s just stimulating new ideas, picking the winners, then implementing efficiently.

- Jeremy Worrell, Fujitsu

Discuss your ideas with others

I learned to discuss my ideas with people with different knowledge, also with people who don’t know the subject (they are too young, too old and/or are working in another area)
- Yves Oesch

10 innovation lessons

A number of important lessons for me come out of 2010 that I’ll continue to build upon in 2011. These I summarize in ten points: I felt 2010 was a ‘crossing point’ in innovation maturity to position us in 2011. We began to consolidate what we know, explore with growing confidence what we didn’t know and experiment in-between.

1. First, “ideas or alternative solutions coming from everywhere” is now fixed in most minds to work through, in implications, structures and management for opening up organizations to diverse thinking.

2. The single-fix solutions are collapsing in adoption; organizations are recognizing the ‘harder road’ of sustaining innovation takes more than one fix to solve all. It involves complex work, yet to be undertaken.

3. The delivery and speed of innovation seems unrelenting but the time to market still seems stuck internally in conflicting issues and personal agendas. When will this change?

4. ‘Defend and extend’ seemed to rule the roost of 2010, but the early signs are that disruption will come sweeping back in more industries to chase the elusive growth needed.

5. Capabilities, competencies and capacity all had a mixed review for progress as many organizations struggled to keep or lay off people. Stability needs to come back somehow so it allows for a positive build of skills, trust and knowledge and 2010 was not one of those years!

6. Social media and design have raised their heads in 2010 and demanded to be integrated with innovation. The way ahead still needs to be defined for many to understand this but they have moved up in top-of-mind in 2010.

7. The chance to throw away much of the innovation legacy in old approaches, structures, processes etc that we have built up piece meal prior to the downturn was not cleared out and replaced. We still are trying to manage 21st problems with 20th century tools. This has got to change soon!

8. Innovation leadership got lost in 2010 to a host of crisis management issues. Will leadership in innovation come through more in 2011? I suspect it all depends on the crisis within or the forces outside and the rallying call of “all hands to the innovation pump.” We do need stronger, bolder innovation leadership to come forward in 2011.

9. The rush of “how-to” innovation books really was plentiful, yet strangely there was little pioneering work within them; rather they largely focused on substantiating and confirming existing thinking. I hope this really does change in 2011. We need fresh, bold thinking with a future perspective, not just looking in the rear-view mirror to confirm everything is still there.

10. Finally, 2010 saw many restructures, write-offs and layoffs but little new emerged that I felt was highly imaginative to change our fundamental thinking about “business as usual.” It was a year to survive but sadly not to re-engineer.

- Paul Hobcraft, Agility Innovation Specialists

Innovation under pressure

Innovation seems to come under pressure when enterprises and organizations are economically pressed. When you would really think the opposite would be the case.

- Thomas Mathiasen, TM-innovation

Focus on bigger questions to drive bigger innovations

This year, we saw more clients asking “big questions”. These were based around two major themes: new technologies such as satellite navigation and electro-mobility, and mega-trends such as green production and renewable energy. Companies are no longer concentrating just on the product innovations that are necessary to ensure their survival tomorrow. Instead, they are increasingly looking for strategies and platforms that will ensure their competitiveness five or ten years into the future. This has made 2010 an exciting year for us, with lots of learning and extension, and we are looking forward to this continuing in 2011.

- Graham Horton, Co-Founder, Zephram

Don’t be afraid to employ outside consultants

For me, it got crystal clear that true innovation is really, really hard inside a large established company. Of course, I’ve known this for years, but I experienced it in 2010 like never before!

I think my lesson then is to enlist the help of the right outside consultants to help. They have more resources and the clout of being outsiders.

- Deborah Arcoleo, Campbell Soup

Create an environment for nurturing and testing ideas

As a pharmaceutical company, one thing that I learned is that innovation is the lifeblood of scientific companies like ours. However, to get beyond product innovation to process innovation, it takes a lot for people to consider alternate ways of doing things, especially in a requlatory environment. So the single most important lesson for me this year was the importance of creating a structure of support for innovation that allows new ideas to be nurtured and tested.  Without that material, physical and most importantly emotional support and encouragement, it is hard to push against the assumptions of a whole industry, function or process culture.
The other important lesson is that as the pharmaceutical industry is transforming itself given the larger environment of health care reform, resource scarcity is actually becoming a driver of innovation, and helping people see it as an opportunity – not just a threat – is important.

- Mino Farooq Akhtar, Eisai Inc.