“What it takes to innovate”

Fortune magazine last issue (March 7th, 2005) is dedicated to "The world’s most admired companies". Fortune took the opportunity to ask Hay Group to conduct a special survey on innovation. Hay Group polled 160 companies on the subject of innovation, which is one of the nine attributes on which the world’s most admired companies rankings are based.

The three best rated companies on the innovation topic are :

  • FedEx
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Alcoa

"Innovation is not something you can simply invoke or turn on or off" says Hays Group vice president Mel Stark. Hays study suggests instead it takes a stable environment made of discipline and organisation.

Full article can be read at : www.fortune.com/fortune/mostadmired/articles/0,15114,1032462,00.html

Startups: The Next Wave

An interesting data from Business Week: half the startups funded during the 1999-2000 period are still alive! Half of them! So contrary to what many believe, this period wasn’t all wasted time and money, but allowed for the launch of real businesses. Now that the burst of the bubble is behind them, it’s take-off time. Of course, everybody talk about Google, the poster child of this period, but behind Google are a host of smaller players that are lining up for the IPOs in 2005 and 2006. Future stars are called TellMe
Networks (voice application software), Vonage (Voice over IP), as well as Force10
Networks, Peribit Networks, and Calix in network equipment; of course the security business is hot and startups such as Fortinet, CipherTrust, and ArcSight are thriving. This "surviving" rate illustrates the old VC saying that the best startups are built during the bear market.
Read the BW article: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_10/b3923117_mz020.htm

Financial Times – Mastering innovation

If you’re not a subscriber, the Financial Times can hardly be read on the web ; probably 90% of the articles are for subscribers only. Those of us who share a special interest for innovation are all lucky, because ALL of the articles of last fall "Mastering Innovation" report are available for free !So if you’ve missed it, there’s no excuse for not reading it yet…

Let us give you an overview.


“Innovation squared”

On the 9th of December 2004, we already mentioned Jim Collin’s bright article "The ultimate creation", published by the Drucker Foundation in "Leading for innovation", probably the best collection of articles on innovation, with a list of authors which looks like the "who’s who" of management academia ; Clayton M. Christensen, Henry Mintzberg, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Charles Handy, Arie de Geus… Jim Collins does not have the audience he deserves in France, and we suspect in Europe as well, although his last book, "Good to great" sold at more than 2 millions hardcover copies, and is still #1 on the long-running best-sellers list of Business Week (books which have been on the best-seller list for more than two years…). As Philippe worked last year at Insead on his next book, you can count on us for a few additionnal posts on Collins work !

What is Jim’s point in "The ultimate creation" ?


Innovation diffusion

In the December issue of Technology Review (MIT’s magazine of innovation) was the last column of Michael Schrage. Michael is co-director of the MIT Media Lab‘s E-Markets Initiative and a senior adviser to MIT¹s Security Studies Program.

As he puts it, he started the monthly Technology Review column to "explore the real guts and viscera of the innovation process – not the polite entrepreneurial fictions about how brilliant ideas ultimatly charm the reluctant marketplaces". After three years, Michael’s conclusion is simple, but bright : "innovation isn’t what innovators do ; it’s what customers and clients adopt".


When R&D creates start-ups

Do you know what is the characteristic shared by companies such as Yahoo, Google, Silicon Graphics, Kelkoo, Ilog, Lycos, Digital Equipement, Genetech, Chiron, Biogen, and Soitec ?

All these companies grew up out of universities or R&D centres (Yahoo, Google and Silicon Graphics started at Stanford, Kelkoo and Ilog at the Inria (the French IT research center), Lycos at Carnegie Mellon, Digital Equipment at the MIT, Genetech and Chiron at the San Francisco University of California, Biogen at Harvard, and Soitec at the Grenoble CEA (the French Atomic Energy organisation).

In a special issue of Expansion Management Review, a leading managerial review, titled "The unknown entrepreneur" (December 2004), Philippe Mustar, professor at the Ecole Nationale supérieure des Mines in Paris presents his findings regarding the research-generated start-ups. Available studies converge and show an ever increasing number of spin-offs from academia. A crucial stake for developed economies, and Philippe Mustar helps us to understand how it works.

Jim Collins “The ultimate creation”

The article mentioned here appeared in a book published by the Peter F. Drucker Foundation ("Leading for innovation", Josey-Bass 2002). In this chapter, Jim Collins stands aloof from a quite ordinary managerial practice : focusing all the company resources on the "next big innovation", the "silver bullet" which is going to strike the competition dead.

To defend his case, Jim Collins reminds us of all the innovation pioneers who fill the corporate graveyards ; Burroughs computers in the 60s were far more innovative than IBM’s, the civil aircraft was not invented by Boeing, but by De Havilland, the first spreadsheet was called VisiCalc, not Excel, and so on…

For Jim Collins, the ultimate form of innovation, or "innovation squared", is managerial innovation, which he even calls "social innovation". It’s Procter & Gamble which initiates employee profit sharing as early as the end of the 19th century, approximately one century before the practice becomes common. In the end, the options raised by Collins are "Are you focusing on the next big innovation", or "Are you trying to build an organisation which stimulates innovation" ?