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Julia Austin

Key Messages From The World Innovation Forum, NY 2012

June 25, 2012

I recently attended the World Innovation Forum in NYC (#WIFNY) – and thanks to WOBI who runs this event, there was a great line-up of amazing innovation thought leaders addressing how companies are staying competitive by increasing their innovation edge.  There was so much greatness to soak in!  I’d like to share some of the key messages that stood out to me from this event.

  • First off, it’s clear that innovation is on every company’s strategic agenda no matter what industry. The key is how each company develops a culture of innovation that includes both revolutionary and evolutionary generation and implementation of ideas.
  • Full solutions, including services, are fundamental to product survival. It’s not the product itself, but the utility of that product that will differentiate (Drucker).
  • There are lots of productivity opportunities when social media, crowd sourcing, and the wider adoption of mobile enable faster turnaround of idea generation, implementation and/or the “killing” of innovation projects.  Innovative organizations must plan for and encourage experimentation and be willing to not only allow room for failure, but celebrate and reward those who learn from failure!
  • Open Innovation and engaging customers and partners in your innovation processes is critical. With open innovation comes co-creation, which takes place across the entire life cycle; building things with your ecosystem of customers, partners and possibly the academic research community from concept to implementation and support.
  • When engaging customers in the innovation process, it’s important to not only create a platform for engagement but also to choose the right customers and incentives. Ensure you actually use your customers’ ideas and communicate that back to them – because “people [customers] are more likely to embrace what they are a part of creating.” (Mohan)
  • Social media and Gamification are changing the way we work, play, and bring products to market. The landscape is changing and the next generation of innovators will not work in the traditional way we have been used to working. Mobility, immediate time to market, crowd sourcing and working smarter while having fun is a critical aspect of how companies will be able to attract and hire innovative talent.
  • Social media has increased the level of engagement of our customers  within the ecosystem – we see noticeably more discussions happening over Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere. So, it’s essential to have community sites and public forums where your customers/partners can collaborate and support each other and also be recognized and rewarded for being helpful and responsive via badging systems, awards, etc.  VMware Community is a great example of this, btw, and our vExperts not only have the satisfaction of helping their peers, but earn a number of exclusive benefits.
  • There were several good reminders by speakers that “Social” means more about a conversation and not just information exchange.  We need to resist the urge to productize conversations and keep in mind both content and context.  We shouldn’t just listen, but engage in conversation and consider how that problem could lead to a solution that’s the next big thing.  We also need to ask what the risk is of not engaging.  Customers know what they want and now more than ever have the medium to say what they want through digital media, at a grand scale.  Will your company be able to do this?
  • The adoption of digital media to engage customers and foster the innovation process internally by all companies is no longer optional.  More and more, customers and consumers are demanding open and transparent communication. “Friending” and “tweeting” and sharing your company products and culture via Instagram are still very new but is happening in pockets around us. This new medium of communication with the customer base can be a daunting experience for companies that are not prepared for the explosion of digital media – and this bottom-up influence is changing the game when it comes to how product innovation roadmaps are developed.  This is a huge opportunity for companies!
  • Finally, social media is now being seen as a means towards ideation and social responsibility.  At WIFNY, there were lots of mentions on how social media is not just a means to innovate, but also a means to change the world.  There are numerous great examples of companies developing ideas that are not only increasing revenue or reducing costs, but also good for the environment and communities in need. – one being the inflatable turbine project that was a result of a social media contest run by GE.  I especially liked this example because it not only demonstrated GE’s open innovation model, but the goal of this particular contest was to modernize the grid and transform global energy.  The Challenge generated nearly 4,000 ideas and the five companies that were funded each received $100K!

If you’re interested in innovation I encourage you to attend next year’s conference. WIFNY not only allows the attendees to hear terrific and often very entertaining (thank you Sir Ken Robinson!) speakers, but it also provides ample opportunity to network with others who are tasked with driving innovation across their organizations or departments – from every possible industry sector you can imagine and from all sizes of organizations.  Many of the people I met were dubbed Innovation leaders of some sort for their companies/orgs only in the past 6-12 months.  Another interesting observation was that, from my eyeball survey, this is one of the first conferences I’ve been to in ages where there was a fairly even attendee gender split – either I spend too much time at nerd conferences, or the wold of innovation is doing a nice job of balancing things out :)

Did you attend this year’s WIFNY as well? If so, I’d be very interested in hearing about your observations and takeaways. Feel free to comment below.

Thanks to WOBI for putting on such a great event!  I’m looking forward to WIFNY’13!

Julia Austin

Julia Austin

VP Innovation

Julia was the VP of Innovation at VMware and focused on advancing VMware into new technology and product areas. This includes internal programs to foster and fund new innovations and the VMware Academic Program (VMAP) which sponsors collaborative research and thought leadership with academic partners ... More

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