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Innovation Tours

Innovation Tours

| On 26, Sep 2007

Praveen Gupta

The Scanlon Leadership Network, with 21 member companies, is committed to learning all they can about Innovation.  The members of the Network have always been innovative in their products, process and people systems but they decided to formally study innovation during and Executive Retreat in 2003.  Innovation came to the forefront again when the Network members made “The Leadership Roadmap” by Dwane Baumgardner and Russ Scaffede the theme of their annual conference in May 2006.   (The roadmap will be published in the fall of 2007).  The Roadmap makes the case that for organizations to win in today’s competitive world they must master innovation, and lean processes and they must do it with their people.

The innovation journey continued with a tour of 3M in Minneapolis, and a tour of Motorola in Schaumburg, IL.  The final tour will be a seminar on measurement systems in Baltimore, MD on November 12th.  The 2008 Annual Conference will be May 5-8 in Dearborn and will feature tours of the Wright Brothers and Edison Labs as well as workshops on innovation.

The purpose of the Motorola tour was to learn about innovation, and starting practicing innovation. The agenda for the tour included Innovation Survey Findings by Praveen Gupta, Barriers to Innovation by Adam Hartung of Spark Partners, Integrating improvement and innovation by Bill Grundstrom and Pat Iaconetti of Dell, Innovation Workout by Praveen Gupta of Accelper Consulting, Teaching innovation by Bob Carlson of Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Building Winning Organizations by Mary Clark of Winning Workplaces, and Leadership for Innovation by Paul Davis, President of the Scanlon Leadership Network. Majel Maes, Director of the Network facilitated the tour of the Motorola Innovation Center along with the Motorola staff.

The innovation survey indicated that there is still a long way to go to improve innovation knowledge and systems, with 20% of the respondents implying that the field of innovation is yet to mature. One of the points highlighted in the presentation was taken from Bill Gates’s presentation at Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, where he emphasized that building better customer relationships is critical to drive business innovation, operational excellence, and supply chain management. Business innovation must be deployed to meet growing customer needs.

Adam Hartung highlighted an organization’s success formula is its biggest barrier because everyone likes to perpetuates the success formula that has worked in the past but that may discourage innovation. Thus, white space, which is an opportunity to innovate something new totally outside the current organization, or system, is needed. Adam emphasized that it is difficult to disrupt the current behavior, hierarchy, and costs structure of your own organization.   However, one can easily identify competitor’s limitations and attack them innovatively to grow a business. Adam’s “Lock In” is described in his upcoming book The Phoenix Principle.

Bill Grundstrom, Director of Dell’s Business Process Improvement, shared Dell’s infrastructure, strategy, tactics, and processes for continually improving processes and products innovatively leading to over $1B per year. Dell’s Central Command Control was highlighted in interacting with customers, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Dell recently, at the request of Michael Dell, launched Customer Idea Storm and Employee Idea Storm to listed the customer and employees for pushing the envelop of innovation. The idea management process is now being improved upon using the Six Sigma methodology.

Innovation workout consisted of two activities pushing the left brain and right brain envelopes. In the interest of time, the left brain activity, leadership ‘things to do’ was assigned as home work, and the right brain activity meant writing poems about innovation and Scanlon. It was amazing to see that in 20 minutes, four teams wrote four poems. Each team read their poem out loud  and acted-out to make it fun!

Prof. Bob Carlson shared how IIT is collaborating with the industry through its IPRO initiative. Multi-departmental student teams tackle real-world problems with corporate sponsorship and develop innovative solutions. These solutions are then used by the sponsoring corporations. These solutions are real!

Mary Clark, Executive Director of Winning Workplaces, shared benefits of being Winning organizations. These organizations are similar to the Fortune’s Best Companies to Work for in America. These companies outperform the S&P index in many areas such as stock performance, sales growth, profit growth, profit margins, and return on investment. Interestingly, the Best Companies, irrespective of their industry tend to be more innovative deliberately. They focus on growth, human relations, innovation, and recognition.

Paul Davis presented a white paper summarizing what the Network has learned so far about creating a culture of innovation. The white paper lays out concrete practical proven steps any leader in any organization can take to increase innovation. 

The Motorola Innovation Center has multiple pods where guests can see the technologies Motorola is developing to help people connect.  One pod focused on Motorola’s strategies to connect first responders.  Another showed how Motorola is developing systems for home and recreation.  Another pod showed what Motorola is doing in third world countries. The purpose on the innovation center is to not only share some of Motorola’s history of innovation, but to focus on the future and what Motorola is doing to help to shape it.

I believe what Scanlon Leadership Network has done a terrific job of raising awareness of innovation. It is amazing to see the enthusiasm about innovation in a network of companies. This speaks for the Scanlon principles that are about helping everyone in a company understand the reality they face while building personal, professional and organizational competency.

The Scanlon Network invites all those interested in innovation to join them as they continue to study innovation.