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Business Innovation Conference 10/7/2009

Business Innovation Conference 10/7/2009

| On 07, Oct 2009

Ellen Domb

Keynote speaker for Day 2 of the conference was Luis Filipe Reis from Inovacao Sonae (division of the family-owned 10Billion Euro Sonae company, which has shopping malls, other retail, real estate, investment managment, construction material manufacturing, and telecom) in Portugal. As a family/entrepreneur-owned company, innovation has been a core value and a core strategy for the development of complex of companies.   The company does frequent experiments with innovative ideas, taking risks in small business areas, then expanding the successful ideas into larger business areas.

Luis reported on the Idea Marketplace, which is now open to all employees, and may be opened to others (customers, universities, the public) later.  NOTE:  his report is on the first 2 years of the experiment. As a result of the learning, the system is being re-launched now with some major changes.   Ideas are collected for various themes that are of interest to the company.  Initially, the executives set the themes, but the departments will do that in the new version for better buy-in to implementation.   Initially, ideas were submitted anonymously, but that was not necessary and may have been counter-productive (people lobbied for their own ideas and sometimes dominated the discussions.)    Discussion forums are set up for the ideas to refine the ideas.  Contributors get tokens to use as money to buy or sell ideas, and a market is opened for 60 days of trading the ideas, then the best are selected for implementation.  In the future, decisions may be made sooner than the 60 days as the market for particular ideas go up and down and in particular when short-implementation ideas surface.  

The audience (in a polite way) went wild–Luis graciously fielded questions on everything from how they manage the amount of time people spend on the system (they don’t worry about it, “We measure results, not time for our employees”) to how the market handles mergers (of related ideas) and how employees are rewarded (lots of public recognition, exchange tokens for trips and techie-toys), to his personal portfolio (he has lost most of his tokens on ideas that didn’t succeed), to details about intellectual property issues.   This is the first time I’ve seen the chairman of a conference cancel the coffee break so that the discussion could continue!