Scott Berkun’s lecture on the "Myths of Innovation"

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Scott Berkun gave a lecture on the Myths of Innovation, at Carnegie Mellon University. These are my notes from that lecture.

Lecture on the Myths of Innovation

(link to presentation on YouTube)

Scott worked at Microsoft for about 10 years. He had a Team Leader role and worked on Internet Explorer for about 6 years. His job was to lead a project team to think up new ideas to make using the internet easier. He would work with designers and engineers, and lead the team to develop the ideas, and put the ideas into a specification and getting it out the door.

The problem – he didn’t know the answer to the questions: “how do you innovate?“, “how do you manage a team that’s supposed to be innovating, and creating new stuff?”

Scott knew a lot of people at MS, many who had been there longer than he was, many “inventors” – people who had worked on Mac, and UNIX. He tried to get information about what the process is, what the plan is, how do you do this. What most people knew where pet theories. There were stories, legends, mythologies, and a lot of people, even though they had a lot of experience and had been successful, put their faith in something that didn’t have a lot of substance. He decided that he had to become informed about this. To find out how people who had done this before him had done it. Not what we think that they did, not what is mythologized in films, but actually what they did.

He started reading about reading about Edison, da Vinci, Ford. He wanted to understand “how did they think about what they did”. This was as a “side project”. He was never interested in history.

Scott left MS in 2003. He was ambition to write books. His first book was about management.”How do you manage teams of people?” The book sold well, and he was asked to write a second book. His second book was about innovation. So many books on innovation are based on hype, and mythology and romance. And this is not so handy if you want to be a practitioner.

A lot of people want to be innovator’s (especially in America). The lecture is not the same as what is in the book, but the themes are the same.


Famous Innovators

Scott started with some information trivia, and showed some pictures of famous innovators:

  • Bob Dylan
  • Micheal Angelo
  • Edison
  • Van Gogh
  • Newton
  • Einstein

The common thing about these people is that none of them got a degree in innovation, or read a book about how innovation happens or took a creative thinking class. None of the things that, today, are promoted as “that’s how you do it”. They just had an idea which they thought was interesting, and they cared about, and they followed it. Sometimes at the expense of their mental health, or finance (Edison)

Innovation is not reached by a specific type of people, of a particular pedigree, following a set of rules. It is usually the renegades and delinquents who are innovators. The people who say that they are not going to follow what everyone else is doing.

There is no official pedigree needed to be an innovator. However, we like to believe there is. There  is a romantic and popular notion that creativity is something that gifted people are born with One particular part of that mythology is the myth of epiphany. That is – there are “magic moments” that define what innovation is.


Innovation Mytology – The Myth of Epiphany

Myths of Innovation - Newton's EpiphanyNewton – the “canonical epiphany story” – because it implies that there is one particular, “special” moment when an individual accidentally was struck “violently” by a piece of fruit and that’s why we know about gravity.

People tend not to think about the mythology, and, when we’re not paying attention, it influences what we believe should be happening – when we are working hard trying to solve a problem, there’s no magic moment, no epiphany, so we feel we are not doing it right.

With the apple story and Newton it probably didn’t happen, but if it did happen, the true value of the story is not that it happened, because he had probably been thinking about gravity for a long time. He didn’t “discover” gravity. He was alive in the late 17th century. We knew about gravity for a long time before that. What he was actually famous for was proving the mathematics of gravity, to be predictive about how gravitational fields worked. It took him about 15 years to do that. However, the myth remains. And the epiphany mythologies absolve us of the pressure of the work involved behind any breakthrough or innovation that we have heard of.

Archimedes is credited with having an epiphany while he was in the bath. The fact that he was “in the bath” is what most people remember. However, it is a comical story that makes the whole idea of innovation seem trivial.

These epiphany stories can be found everywhere – business success, literature success, everywhere. This is because they are comfortable, entertaining, and amusing, but they deflate all the hard work behind the success.

In Archimedes’ case, it is most likely that the “reported” moment was not the only time he spent thinking about the problem.


Creative Thinking

A big part of innovation is “creative thinking”. How do you invent? How do you develop a new idea? How do you find alternative ways that people haven’t thought of before?

In preparation for the book, Scott became a student of psychologogy-literature, of creative thinking. He read journals and books, and there is a popular notion about creativity, which is reflected in all these epiphany stories and that is, that an idea is a discrete thing. That it happens in a moment of time. This is how we conventionally think creative thinking is.

All the psychology behind creative thinking, and how our brains work, and how we develop ideas, talks about the value of “habits”. Creative people have different habits for how they use ideas, and how they play with ideas, and how much time is spent seeking alternatives. They are more comfortable entertaining odd, crazy, scary ideas longer than most people who dismiss them quickly).

So – it’s about habits, and when you hear about a story of an epiphany, or a magic moment, the magic moment isn’t going to tell you anything. It’s what happened 10 minutes,  or an hour, before that magic moment that’s important. What was that person doing?


Magic Moment

How does this magic moment fit into the person’s pattern of behaviour. If you can learn the patterns of behaviour then there is something that you can replicate, or emulate, or borrow from to inform you about what process you have to follow to be creative. The “moments” are not important, it’s the habits that lead to the moments.

It’s like an iceberg…


Myths of Innovation - Innovation Iceberg

Another example is the invention of the telephone. The “story” goes that the first words spoken were “Watson, come here”. If you were to invent a replacement to the telephone, what value would knowing “the first words spoken” have? It is useless information. What we mostly know about creative thinking is trivia. It’s interesting, but not going to help you be creative.

There is also the mythology in science. Often a lot of the way we learn science is following the footsteps of others, and what has been done before. So even though the words “experiment”, and “scientific method” show up in scientific education, is it very rare for people to do an experiment themselves, or ask a question and don’t have clear answers. So even though we talk about science, and “scientific method” we have a very biassed sense of what that means. When talking about breakthroughs in science, the patterns that we follow are more comfortable to human nature than we realise.

Scott refers to the book “The Double Helix” which he read to understand what creative process was used. Did they follow the same iterative process that he had for software? Did they have hypotheses, and explored outcomes.

The book actually has very little about science in it. It is largely about a bunch of people who had an idea, about something that most people didn’t agree was possible. The people involved were, effectively, pursuing hunches and instinctive motivation. Even though backed up by science the motivating force was purely human. It was an intuitive and ad-hoc process. Anytime we talk about discovery, or break through, this is true.



Failure is also a part of break-through. Failures are essential. Often we do not see the failures.

For example, the Colosseum in Rome. We marvel at what a great building it is, and how advanced the architects and builders must have been.

What we don’t see are all the other buildings that are not standing today. The one’s that failed. This is common in the history of innovation. We never see the failures. So if you want to follow someone’s path to success, their innovation, you want to look at their failures. What mistake did they make, that they learnt something from, and was able to apply to something else.

This can be found everywhere. YouTube is an example. Originally the company was trying to create a video alternative to “Hot or Not”, a online dating site where photos could be posted and then people could vote whether the person in the photo was “hot” or “not”. In the course of building the “alternative” they recognized that there was better use for it in a more general direction.

Flickr started out as a software game development company for an online, multiplayer game. After about a year they ran out of funding, but they were able to recognize that part of the thing they were building was a part where there was the ability to share photos. They realized that this little part had actually more chance of being successful than the game itself. They made a mistake, they learnt from it, and they went in a different direction.

Apple also had a similar story. Way back at the beginning, Steve Wozinack worked at HP, and he tried to get HP interested in making a personal computer. HP didn’t want to so Steve W. and Steve Jobs went off and did it their way.

Same with Google. In the beginning when the founders had a  they were looking at selling their ideas to a search engine company. They were told by every search engine company that search engines weren’t very profitable. In 1999 this was true. They were told by Yahoo, and some other search engine companies, that they should really go out on their own if they want the idea to materialize.

So, the real value is looking at the mistakes to understand the process of innovation.

However, stories about failures are very rare.

If you hear about a company that has just had a breakthrough, or a magic moment, and you want to be an innovator yourself, you need to ask yourselves some questions:

Lessons Learned so far

  • What happened before the magic?
  • What mistakes did they learn from?
  • What ideas did they reuse?
  • What did they think of what they were making while they were making it?


Scott gives an example. “Imagine,” he says “that you are working together on a project. The goal is to innovate – to create Web 4.0.”

“We start with a prototype – we build some code. It goes so well, that some people who thought you were crazy to start with, start showing interest, and want to know more, and get involved. The project starts to grow, and we get more support behind it. Interest starts growing even more, and there are blog posts about it, and articles are written in magazines about how this is the next new thing.”

What generally happens next is … nothing.

Scott goes on to talk about exploration. Exploration has many similarities to innovation.

He shows a photo of Captain James Kirk from Star Trek. He points out that James T Kirk is the only modern day icon for exploration that we have today.

Most of the planet has been “discovered”, and the main story that gets told these days, over and over, in the movies, on TV, involving exploration is that of Captain James T Kirk.

The problem with this, of course, is that Captain James T Kirk is not a real person. He’s just a character in a TV show.

Looking at real explorers – Magellan, Cook, da Gama – they all spent most of their time failing. They started with a map with outlined “the world”, and then went “off the map”. And during this time, there were many unpleasant things that happened – mutinies, scurvy, etc – as well as lots, and lots of uninteresting stuff. The main point is that most of exploration is taken up with uninteresting hard work. This is the parallel with innovation. All the hard work is not as sexy as the point where the flag is put in the ground, or that “Eureka” moment.

The problem with James T Kirk is that, normally, within the first minute of the show, a new planet is discovered., in the next couple of minutes something dramatic happens. And then a commercial break. All the hard bits that make up exploration are skipped. The Teleporter, transporter, warp drive – these are all narrative devices to get you past the hard work parts of exploration.

Looking at real explorers, Magellan was famous for circumnavigating the globe. But there is actually many, many events that took place during this that people are not aware of.

According to Berkun, Cook was actually the model for James T Kirk, and the reason that the “red coat” is always the one that dies, is because the British marines wore red coats and they were always the ones sent in first and died.

Berkun brings the talk back to the fact that the time between when something (technology, etc) is thought to be “interesting” by the people working on it, and when it is considered a “breakthrough” by the mass market is often 15-20 years. Example – the mouse, the cell phone

This means, in our example project above, once success is achieved, it now has to fit into the “narrative” of innovations. That is it becomes the latest of a long line of other innovative achievements that led up to it.

The “details” about the pain, or mistakes, or the boring bits, doesn’t get recorded. This makes it seem ordinary, simple and obvious despite how complicated or risky it was to do.

O’Reilly Publishers created a diagram that describes the history of programming languages and how they are all related to each other ( It is an excellent way to get an overview of the languages, and allows you to get some perspective.

However, there is no language listed that was invented through using the diagram. It is not a tool used to invent. It gives a “god” perspective. It is easy to look at the diagram, at Object Pascal for example, and pass judgment. This is the risk of the chronological accounts of innovation.

Myths of Innovation - O'Reilly's Language posterClick on the image to read more

Lessons Learned so far

  • Good history = fact-based stories, not trivia.
  • Seek out first and second person.
  • Study the origins of an ordinary thing.
  • Everything was once an innovation.



Berkun then starts talking about Luddites.

He tells that how in the circles he was working, the term Luddite was a slur, meaning that you are trying to resist something (new technology) that is going to become inevitable.  Of course, the real story is that during the Industrial Revolution in England, people who worked in the textile industry operating the looms were replaced by technology that did the same. The workers (supposedly lead by “Ned Ludd”) responded by destroying the technology with sledge hammers

He then asks his audience to imagine coming to work to find they have been replaced by a small box, and to be told that all other employees have had the same done to them. He suggests that people would have a violent response to the box, an emotional response and an awareness of how much the box would be taking away from their lives.

The lesson here is about innovation, because innovation is effectively a kind of change. It may be a positive change, but, in general, people fear change. And as an innovator, you are introducing change somewhere – your workplace, your work colleagues, your family, your customers. As an innovator, if you are not aware of the change, or the ramifications of the change, then the innovation is likely to fail.

For example, if you introduce a new innovation in the workplace, then maybe your co-workers will resist the change, because they didn’t think of it. Your boss might be embarrassed because he didn’t think of the idea, so he might suppress the idea. So Innovation is more about sociology than technology. This can frustrate technologists, who may have a technically superior product, but it takes a long time for it to be “accepted”.

There is a book called “Diffusion of Innovations” by Evett M. Rogers, an anthropologist, which looks at “history of technological advancement from a sociological standpoint”. Rogers focused on why certain cultures adopted certain innovations. For example – why did one culture adopt clubs, another better cooking innovations, etc. From this, he concluded that it is culture that precipitates, or enables, innovation. A quote from his book is:

The diffusion of innovation is a social process, based more on psychology and sociology than technology”.

If you want to instigate change, you have to ask “who is negatively affected by change, and how do I negotiate that?” “How do I persuade them, negotiate with them, convince them?” If you do not have answers to these questions, it may not matter how great your innovation is.




Berkun finished his presentation with a story about 3M.

3M stands for “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing”. Now, one of the best known products from 3M is the yellow Post-its. There does not seem to be much of a connection between yellow sticky notes, and the name “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing”. It is an amazing leap to go from mining to Post-its.

In the early 20th century, the Industrial revolution was still big. Machinery was a product of these, and for these steel is needed. A group of entrepreneurs in Minnesota decided they were going to start a mining company so that they could make grinding wheels. They bought a mine, and started mining, but it turned out that they mined the wrong mineral. They held a meeting, and decided to go in a different direction – sandpaper. With this came a new set of mistakes, and problems, but after about 5 years they started a profitable sandpaper company.

One of their sandpaper engineers, Richard Drew, was working on a project where he had prototypes of new types of sandpaper. He went to one of his customers – an automobile manufacture – who happen to have a problem painting their cars two tones (blue and grey). They didn’t have a reliable way of separating the two colours. Drew noticed this, and said that he could probably come up with a way to solve it. He goes back to 3M and starts working on prototypes. Eventually his boss, William McNight, tells him to start concentrating on 3M’s products. Drew does this, but is still busy with a solution for this problem, and carries on working on it. Several times he is told to get back to his real work. However he carries on with the problem, and eventually comes up with a prototype which he takes to the automobile company. They love it, so drew shows it to his boss who agrees that it is OK, and that is how Masking Tape originated. Drew would go on to invent cellophane tape (“scotch tape”/ “sellotape”)

The interesting part of this story is not what Drew achieved, but more how William McNight reacted.

Sales of masking tape, and cellophane tape far exceed those of sandpaper. These new things became 3M’s most successful product lines. McNight acknowledge that he had screwed up. Originally he had wanted to stop the development of these products. He decided to change his business philosophy to encourage the Richard Drews, to encourage new ideas. So he changed the company, and the direction of the company, and eventually became CEO of 3M, and made this philosophy a core part the company philosophy.

Berkun displayed a three paragraph piece from a report McNight had written on 3M’s business philosophy:

As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility, and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative.

This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way.

Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes that he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs.

Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiatives if we are to continue to grow.

– William McKnight, 3M Chairman, 1948.

Download a copy of this.

Berkun points out that this was from about years ago, and is hardly ever seen in action with other companies today.

The main things that McKnight is saying are:

  1. Delegation – trust that a employee will do the right thing.
  2. Mistakes will be made – innovation means risks, and risks mean mistakes – a commitment is needed that mistakes will be made, and allowed.
  3. Initiative –must be encouraged.

Google have a rule where employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on something innovative. However, 3M came up with the concept originally.

Berkun maintains that if McKnight’s philosophy is followed, then innovation will occur. And this is also on a personal level. People are “trained” to follow the rules, and not to make mistakes. If you want to be innovative, you need to find a way to allow yourself to make mistakes. To be less critical of their creative ideas, and to follow them further before trashing them.

Also – being innovative is a personal responsibility. No one is going to say “OK – now break the rules”.


Would you like to learn more?

Here are some resources that I handpicked from Amazon …     [Important Disclosure]

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Summary of The Pharma Summit 2012 – by someone who was there

The following is an excellent overview that Carolyn Buck Luce has written on her blog of The Pharma Summit 2012, recently held in London . (Everything below is hers. The highlighting, however, is mine, and I have added my own comments.)

Clearly some very interesting topics have been discussed. And from Carolyn’s excellent notes, it’s readily apparent that there is a huge move in this industry.


Insights from Economist Pharma Summit – Finding New Directions

Here are some insights that are “sign posts” of Pharma 3.0 where the patient is in the middle, not the product and the focus is on delivering health outcomes to individuals at an economic benefit for health systems and society.

  • GSK CFO, Simon Dingeman, observed that in emerging markets most medicines are paid for “out of pocket” by individuals. This reality has spurred a different business model by more closely integrating the Consumer, Pharmaceutical and Vaccines businesses to focus on ultimate customer.
  • Bruno Strigini, Merck President of Europe/Canada — reflected on the demise and bankruptcy of Kodak and observed that in hindsight the trends were visible to all but changing a business model is exceedingly hard. This is quite analogous to the pharma industry where it has to move to delivering outcomes. For Merck this includes increasing innovative partnerships with non traditional players like food and IT companies and building solutions and services.
  • Managing Director of GAVI, Nina Schwalbe, discussed that every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer but now, based on the system working together, there is a vaccine for this.
  • Stephen Whitehead, CEO ABPI, and Bruno Strigini, Merck President Europe/Canada
    — Fascinating conversation about value and outcomes. Everyone agrees that today there is not a common definition of what is the optimal health outcome with payors, patients, doctors and pharma having different perspectives. All stake holders have a role in the measures to assess value. And this can include a range of interventions to innovations. For example, if a pill can be taken once a day instead of 4 times a day could increase patient adherence and is therefore a valuable intervention.
  • Patrick Flochel, EY, observed that we are in the health business not the sick business. The HC system needs to put the patient in the middle. And the HC system will be shifting to health care everywhere – beyond the two pillars of the doctors office and hospital to the “the third place(s)” —wherever the patient/health care consumer is.
  • Theresa Heggle, Shire: A shift from provider to payor with the patient at the center has helped Shire shift their focus to the needs and value to the patient. Working with rare and orphan diseases, Shire works closely with patient organizations and families, possibly a model for the future of “personalized” medicines. There are already 300-350 drugs for orphan diseases and over 7000 such diseases.
  • John Pottage, ViiV: HIV is a good example of patient at the center model where patients literally took an activist part to become equal partners in innovation and regulatory process. Relationships, incentives, roles and responsibilities, data transparency etc were redefined.
    Now, ViiV is an example of a business model where the focused resources of two large companies contributed to a new company that is focused on just one disease with extensive partnerships and collaborations, from medicine to delivery with the patient at the center.
  • Wendy White, Siren Interactive. Patients and caregivers with rare disorders are now frequently the primary drivers of diagnosis and treatments given their active use of internet and mobile technology to get educated. Their activity can be predictors for future innovations as innovation happens at the margins.
  • Fascinating conversation about the value of transparency and data.
    For example everyone publishes what IS working in clinical trials but there is a wealth of insights in the data of what didn’t work but those data are not published in an easily accessible way.
    On Social media —notwithstanding the regulatory constraints of using social media in interactions with doctors and patients, pharma companies are beginning to dip their toe in by listening. However, there are challenges —in part due to the quick response expectations that don’t leave time for appropriate reflection and educated deliberations. Building trust is key to the industry so missteps in social media would be a real setback for the industry.
    (This is an excellent point. Listening, however, is an excellent start. There is a continual stream of incredibly useful feedback that the patients are giving. – Mark)
  • Discussion around the role of behavioral change in improving health
  • Sir Andrew Dillon, Chair of NICE — the trend of value-based pricing will continue. This is a growing trend that will touch both developed and developing markets.
    Sir Andrew encourages pharma companies to not “run away” from the developed markets to find countries without this approach as there will eventually be a NICE-like agency in China and India etc. The future will have funders, providers, innovators and users working more closely together earlier and earlier in the process to come up with good decisions. There will always be tensions but they can be creative tensions that produce value for health systems and better outcomes for patients.
  • Anders Ekbloom AZ – it was interesting to hear his perspective on what the innovators need from the payers:
    • reward value that medicines contribute to the overall cost of health
    • create trust by considering all the relevant data and being transparent in rules for decision making
    • insure rigor in how decisions are made to insure they reflect the needs of the population
    • justify decisions with clarity and give innovators opportunity to reflect and react
    • go faster as sometimes it takes payers up to a year after approval to agree on price but the IP clock is ticking

In the end, innovators have a long lead time and are making big investments. The more harmonized, clear and transparent rules and decision making across boundaries are with respect to reimbursement, the greater the win for all.

  • Reflections upon listening to Brian Griffin, CEO Medco International on Patient Data and how it will transform the Pharma Industry:
    Many of the health systems strategies around bending the cost curve through cutting prices has not been effective and the focus is turning to increased adherence which will be driven in part by better data —integrated, actionable and accessible to stakeholders, including investors.Facts in Europe. — 50% of patients don’t take medicines. This is made up of 1/3 don’t fill their prescriptions; 1 in 10 stop taking their pills; 1/2 forget to finish regimen and 1/4 of all patients don’t take recommended dose. This costs pharma companies in Europe $125B and causes 200,000 premature deaths per year.Focusing on real of use patient data and offering an integrated medication support package with a suite of adherence services can make a real difference and provide the base line improvements that support demonstration of value. These real use data will also provide key insights on patient behavior that will help build incentives and interventions to improve adherence and safety.
  • Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer Pfizer and HBA 2011 Woman of the Year, spoke on The Future of Medicines – The Disruptive Innovators.
    As usual, Freda had compelling perspectives of the future from the patient perspective and the need to approach this with a sense of urgency. She made the point that disruptive innovation is only disruptive in hindsight.
    Pharma can’t lower performance or be all things to all people – ie better, faster, cheaper – given the imperative to move to targeted precision therapies. More important that we start asking disruptive questions like 1) how to best characterize diseases, and 2) how do we streamline the matching of therapies to disease to increase precision and 3) how do we create 21st century science by upgrading 1950’s funding.
  • The conference ended on a high note with a keynote from Tachi Yamada, former President of the Global Health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and now EVP, Chief Medical Officer of Takeda, speaking on changing the game in global health.
    Tachi spoke eloquently about the importance of the emerging markets to the industry and the “moral tragedy” of the current state — 8 million children dying unnecessarily life expectancy less than 50 years; with examples like TB which kills millions of people every year and is being fought with a vaccine that is 80 years old and medicine that is 40 years old.
    His answer is to revolutionize innovation, turn things upside down and get to work with the following prescription: 1) Challenge accepted dogma and promote those that challenge 2) Be willing to fail and fail often and take big risks 3) Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas 4) Decide fast while the excitement and enthusiasm is there 5) Create a sense of urgency so that desperate ideas are welcome.(The comment “Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas” is brilliant and worth repeating – Mark)

Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas

Carolyn’s original post can be read here. Also check out her other great posts.

  • Pharma 3.0 (
  • A Commentary: Pharma’s Ongoing PR Problem (
  • The future of healthcare is visible but requires new ways of thinking (
  • CBR Pharma Insights’ Latest Report, The Perception of the Pharmaceutical Industry – Health Care Reform, Drug Safety, and Drug Costs (
  • 2 Risky, 2 Safe Pharma Plays (
  • Big Pharma and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (
  • Bad journalism paints unfair picture of pharma industry (
  • Medicine Makeovers – Thomas Pogge Disects the Pharma Industry’s Shortcomings & Proposes a Solution ( (

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Do you really “get” Innovation?


The good people at Innovation Excellence (that would be Braden Kelly, and Rowan Gibson) have published a post, written by Holly G Green, in which you have the chance to test your “Innovation IQ“.

Initially I thought that this would be a whimsical piece that would equate to one of those “self tests” in a Cleo magazine that we all like to take. (Or so I’ve heard…)

However, the article was actually quite a good one, and I learnt some interesting things about Innovation.

With permission, I republish the article below. However, you can save time and go directly to the “Innovation IQ” test by clicking here. Also – take a look around at some of the other great articles on the site.

Test Your Innovation IQ
Posted on December 7, 2011 by Holly G Green

Everyone knows that innovation means coming up with the next great idea in your industry, right? Actually, there’s a lot more to it than that. Test your ability to separate innovation fact from fiction by answering the following questions true or false:

  1.  Innovation is the act of coming up with new and creative ideas.
  2. Innovation is a random process.
  3. Innovation is the exclusive realm of a few naturally talented people.
  4. The biggest obstacle to innovation is a lack of organizational resources and know-how.
  5. The most important type of innovation involves bringing new products and services to market.
  6. Teaching employees to think creatively will guarantee innovation.
  7. The most powerful way to trigger your brain is to simply ask it a question.
  8. Most companies pursue incremental rather than disruptive innovation.
  9. Most companies are not structured to innovate.
  10. Listening to your customers is a great way to innovate.


1. False. In business, innovation is the act of applying knowledge, new or old, to the creation of new processes, products, and services that have value for at least one of your stakeholder groups. The key word here is applying. Generating creative ideas is certainly part of the process. But in order to produce true innovation, you have to actually do something different that has value.

2. False. Innovation is a discipline that can (and should) be planned, measured, and managed. If left to chance, it won’t happen.

3. False. Everyone has the power to innovate by letting their brain wander, explore, connect, and see the world differently. The problem is that we’re all running so fast that we fail to make time for the activities that allow our brains to see patterns and make connections. Such as pausing and wondering….what if?

4. False. In most organizations, the biggest obstacle to innovation is what people already know to be true about their customers, markets, and business. Whenever you’re absolutely, positively sure you’re right, any chance at meaningful innovation goes out the window.

5. False. It’s certainly important to bring new products and services to market. But the most important form of innovation, and the #1 challenge for today’s business leaders may really be reinventing the way we manage ourselves and our companies.

6. False. New ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part is turning those ideas into new products and services that customers value and are willing to pay for — a process that requires knowledge about what your customers want and need, coupled with implementation.

7. True. Ask a question and the brain responds instinctually to get closure. The key with innovation is to ask questions that open people to possibilities, new ways of looking at the same data, and new interpretations of the same old thing.

8. True. Most companies focus on using internally generated ideas to produce slightly better products (incremental innovation). Then they strive to get those slightly better products to market as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. This approach is quicker and cheaper than disruptive innovation. But it rarely generates the results that lead to sustainable market leadership.

9. True. Most organizations are physically set up with accounting in one area, marketing in another, and management off by itself. Employees rarely interact with other departments unless they need something to get their jobs done. And leaders and departments often withhold information, believing that it puts them in a position of power. Innovation requires teamwork, communication and collaboration, not isolated silos.

10. Trick question! The answer is “it depends.” Research shows that customers can be a good source of ideas for improving existing products and services — if you’re looking to achieve incremental innovation. However, by itself, customer research is not sufficient for generating disruptive innovation because it only uncovers expressed, or known, customer needs. Disruptive innovation solves problems that customers didn’t even know they had or were unable to clearly articulate to themselves or their vendors. It redefines the market at a very fundamental level or, in many cases, creates a new market.

If you got 8 or more correct answers, give yourself a pat on the back. If you scored between 4 and 7, I recommend some more research and work on these critical leadership skills. If you scored less than 4, wake up and smell the burnt coffee! Get some help.

If you’re not constantly looking to improve your products, services, systems, and managerial processes, you will fall behind. And once you fall behind, it can be very difficult and often impossible to catch up!

  • 8 Make-or-Break Rules For Corporate Innovation
  • Some Thoughts About Disruptive Innovations
  • So, Who Wants to Be An Innovator?
  • Innovation: It’s Not The Idea, It’s What You Do With It
  • Of White Knights and Trite Rhetoric: Resurrecting What Innovation Means
  • Innovation Management
  • Disruptive Technologies
  • Failure in the Workplace – Why It’s Good for Innovation

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Innovation Management


I’m following the AIIM Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner course at the moment, and in Module 4, there is a slide that contains the following definition of Innovation Management:

Innovation management is the economic implementation and exploitation of new ideas and discoveries, and the implementation of an innovation culture in an organization, to promote and make possible the development of new ideas and business opportunities. Innovation management consists of innovation strategy, culture, idea management and implementation of innovation processes.

– John P Riederer, University of Wisconsin.

While reading this, I couldn’t help thinking about 3M. If you recall, in my post Innovation policy from an unexpected mine – 3M, I described how William L McKnight, the head of the company, did just what was described in the definition above. He gave Dick Drew an environment where Dick could develop his new idea, one that was totally different from the core product of the company. And it was this environment, this innovation culture, that allowed 3M to grow to what it is today.

  • The Future of Innovation Management: 5 Key Steps for Future Success (
  • What Every Innovation Manager Needs To Know about Value Creation? Let’s Start with Something Simple. (
  • Blog Post: What is the function of KM? (
  • Managing Innovation (

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The traveler sees…


The Innovation Excellence site , hosted by Brandan Kelly and Rowan Gibbs, is a hub for an innovation community. There, you can find all measure of incredible articles, blog posts, videos, presentations, etc, etc that delve into Innovation Excellence.

I particularly liked this post from their site:

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

G. K. Chesterton

The traveler strikes the right balance between the wanderer’s open-minded absence of direction, and the tourist single-minded destination focus.

Like the tourist, the traveler knows the value of setting a direction and charting a course. Like the wanderer, the traveler knows the value of observing the way of life, the attitudes, the passing light in the landscape, the unexpected, the transient, which will never find their place on the shelf of the airport bookshop.

Like the traveler, the innovator knows the challenge and sets a course to address it, then keeps the flexibility to discover along the way the people, ingredients and tools that will eventually enable her to meet the challenge.

  • tourist versus traveller

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FirstDoc User Group 2011 – a look back at the conference – Part 2

Previous PostFirstDoc User Group 2011 – a look back at the conference – Part 1

In Part 1 of the FDUG 2011 series, I described the location of the meeting, and gave an overview of CSC’s plan and strategies. In Part 2, I’ll talk about the rest of the conference.

Going thin

After the break, two of the Pharma companies gave a presentation on a project that they were each involved with to upgrade their document management system.

I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, but it is obvious that the drivers in the pharmaceutical world are the same as in any other business. Namely,

  • Try and get as much functionality out of a product without writing customized code.
  • Aim to increase the useability of a solution
  • Make use of “thin” technology – (Portals).

The business cases presented described how CSC technology was being used to allow these goals to be met.  Always interesting to see, as this is a common theme.

Partnership Program

In the session  CSC described their “Partner Program” plans.

CSC’s goal here is to “put more effort into Partnerships to increase their usefulness.”  That is, with a good network of “CSC Partners”, CSC can meet client requirements, be able to offer more, and be more responsive (i.e. have more resources available) .

Companies that partner with CSC will fall into of three areas: Technology; Sales; Solution. Each area has its own “model” and KPIs that need to be met to be able to retain their status. “Customer Satisfaction” being the most important.

The message was that CSC want to seriously lift their game here. This will include certification, KPIs, working with the Partners to bring over a “unified” message.


As mentioned, CSC will be offering a certification program.

This will be made up of 4-tiered capabilities (Installation, Configuration, Customization, and Architecture). CSC are looking at some type of “boot camp” experience where individuals attend a week long course for each capability. This will be followed by several weeks of “shadowing” on client projects.

The fact that CSC mention this, signals that they want to set a standard that people that partner with them will meet. Which is encouraging. The “certification” is for the individual (that is, it’s not transferable to other people at the Partnersite).

Curious to see how this one will pan out.

Total Regulatory Solution

In the keynote presentation, there was mention of CSC’s “Total Regulatory Solution”.

Jennifer Wemstrom (who flew over to this year’s European FDUG) presented CSC’s overview of their “Total Regulatory Solution”.

Underpinning this is CSC’s aim to provide the “Total Business Solution” that supports the creation, management and consumption of regulatory documentation in the Life Sciences industry.

In simple words, CSC have got all the tools (especially since their acquisition of ISI and their Publishing tools) to achieve this, but the tools are still disparate applications. CSC’s goal is that all these disparate systems will be unified. They will have a common interface, and a use a shared data model.

This is definitely the right move. In my years as a ECM specialist I have seen companies grow through the acquisition of other companies that offer a solution that compliments, or even enhances, the parent companies offerings. The next logical step is to integrate the applications that make up the suite so that the user is presented with a seamless “solution”.

At the same time CSC seem to be actively investigating offering more than just a suite of technical products. They have realised that they have a lot of skill and knowledge in this area, and are talking about Business Process Outsourcing, and offering their Total Regulatory Solution as a managed service. (This ties in with CSC’s goal to dive into the cloud.)

New Product Offerings

CSC realise that there are still a few “gaps” in their offering. They are busy with  three new products. These are all to do with the submission end of the process. It looks like CSC are really listening to their customers.

Business Process Outsourcing

In this area CSC have three offerings:

  • Staff Augmentation – where CSC staff will work “side by side” with the customer;
  • Tactical Outsourcing – where CSC will handle specific aspects of the regulatory process.
  • Functional Outsourcing of regulatory activity.

As mentioned above, CSC definitely want to make good use of the skills & experience they have built up, and want to expand into offering services rather than just technology.

To back this up, CSC described how they will be tackling staff training (resource development). They have three levels which includes a sort of “orientation/induction” level, “core training” for regulatory activities, and then, “client specific training” which addresses the activities that a client has outsourced to CSC.

Managed Services

CSC have a series of Managed Service Models. These include the traditional models of “on premise” or “hosted” through to “As a service” which includes “Dedicated”, “Private Cloud”, and “Public Cloud”.  A flavor to suit all requirements.

FirstDocs 6.3

Bill Meier spent some time discussing the CSC’s latest version of FirstDoc (version 6.3) which include a large number of enhancements.

A few of the high points include the fact that this version will be certified on Linux.

…continued in Part 3

Next Post: FirstDoc User Group 2011 – a look back at the conference – Part 3

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FirstDoc User Group 2011 – a look back at the conference – Part 1

Previous Post: FDUG – Europe – Review of the Agenda

In this post I discuss the recently held 2011 FirstDoc User Group conference. Because there was so much content I am doing this in multiple posts.

Location and Venue

As described in my earlier post, this year’s FDUG was held in Vienna. At the end of each FDUG Conference , the organizers ask the attendees where they would like the next one to be held. Vienna came up on the list two years ago as a favourite, and clearly made its way to the top of the list. Not a bad choice.

The conference was held at the Marriott Hotel. The conference rooms were great, and the catering was superb. The breakfast available at the beginning of each day was an excellent idea!


Pharma Customers

There was a lot of people at this years user group. There were 53 attendees, representing 21 of CSC’s 47 Pharma customers.

CSC Team

  • Marty Magazzolo – Global Practice Director, ECCM Life Sciences
  • Paul Attridge – Head of Life Sciences ECCM Product Development
  • Jennifer Wemstrom – Director, Regulatory Solutions
  • Bill Meier – FirstDoc Product Manager
  • Franciska Darmer – Life Sciences Solution Specialist
  • Christopher Langebner – Senior Account Executive
  • Steve Scrace – Senior Account Executive
  • Pablo Santiago – Manager, CSC Spain
  • Rober Svanetti – Life Sciences Manager, CSC Italy
  • Tobia Griessel – Account Executive, CSC Germany


In my last FDUG post I talked about the proposed agenda. Fortunately there weren’t many changes.

You can view the agenda here.

KeyNote & Strategy Update

After a warm welcome by Bill Meier,  the Conference kicked off with the KeyNote.

Marty Magazzolo, the Global Practice Director, took to the stage and gave an update on CSC’s strategy, as well as describing a little bit of the original goal of their purchase of FCG. Namely, it was to “be more inline with their customers’ business needs than rather being a pure IT vendor” (Even though in quotes, the previous statement is, most likely not exact, but gets the same message across.)

Business – CSC nows considers itself a “Global Technology and Business Services Company”, and operates in three lines of business:

  • Business Solutions & Services
  • Managed Services Sector
  • North American Public Sector

Software Strategy – With it’s recent acquisition of ISI, CSC now has a range of products that allow it to offer “Total Business Solutions”.

In fact their Mission Statement is:

Provide end to end business solutions for processes involving the creation, review, approval, consumption & exchange of regulated and mission critical documents and content within a Life Sciences organization

To achieve this, CSC have created several “Total” solutions – These include one for Regulatory, one for Clinical, and one for Quality. These played a large role in this year’s conference.

At the same time, CSC admitted that the solutions are still made up of disparate systems. The goals for the future are to streamline them so that they use a common interface, a common database structure, and work together seamlessly.

Business Process Outsourcing – CSC feel that they can offer the expertise necessary to handle customer’s regulatory, and other, requirements. A benefit of this outsourcing model is that “skills are sharpened and rotated” allowing their (CSC’s) staff to gain skills in a wide area, and these resources can then be called upon, when necessary, for specific tasks. The cost savings, CSC claim, are seen when you compare to having specialist skills in-house full-time.

Cloud – Paul Attridge said “Everyone’s got a cloud”, and  CSC are also “clouding up” and are looking at offering both private and public cloud service models.

System Integration – CSC’s message was that they intend to create better integration with other products. The goal is to be able to offer solutions to their customers that match the “real world” situation. Even if the solution requires integrating with other ECM related products (and is achieved through partnerships).

CSC are also trying to keeping an eye on the progress of the SAFE-BioPharma® Digital Identity and Signature Standard, to determine whether they will need to offer suitable integration capabilities.

User Interface – CSC add FirstDoc functionality to EMC’s “fat” client for Documentum – WebTop. EMC have announced WebTop is being phased out after Version 7 of Documentum. CSC are working to ensure that their SharePoint web part technology (SPX) will have the same features as offered by WebTop.  At the same time CSC will be investing in creating an interface using EMC’s  rapid application development technology, xCP.  (In fact, EMC have asked CSC to help ensure that version 2.1 of xCP will provide complete content management capabilities.)

This brought us to the end of the Keynote and Strategy session. Before the coffee break Bill Meier shared with us an interesting article he had read over  the effects of coffee – caffeine increase alertness in woman, but, in men, there is a drop in performance and confidence. (This link describes a little of what Bill was talking about).

I will cover the other sessions in a later post.

Next post: FirstDoc User Group 2011 – a look back at the conference – Part 2

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Momentum Lisbon – Opening, and Technical Keynote.

During the opening and technical Keynote presentations at this year’s Momentum, I sat, and diligently made notes of everything that was said.

When I started writing this Post, I realised that I was give a blow-by-blow account of the session, and that this was leading to a rather be a lot large (and more tedious) than I had originally intended. So – instead of that I will try and summarise the key points of the session. (I’ll get the other post finished later).

In the morning, Mark Lewis gave his vision on the “future”. He also explained that he is no longer President of IIG but the “Chief Strategy Officer”. In the afternoon keynote session, Rick Devenuti, the new President of the group introduced himself, and, more-or-less, repeated Mark’s message in his own way. Then Jeetu Patel, the new Chief Technology Officer, expanded on the message giving more depth to it.

The forecast is for cloud.

EMC have recognised that the world is changing.

  • More and more information is being created, and is becoming richer (media files, etc) and more disperse (multiple locations).
  • Regulations are increasing, requiring the keeping of more and more documents. At the same time, being able to easily locate information is becoming extremely important.
  • The User is changing. The way information is consumed is changing, as well as the expectation of the user.

Technology is also evolving. The latest “wave” includes:

  • cloud computing – the increase use of divergent ways of using information regardless of where a person is, is a driving force behind the adoption of the cloud.
  • Mobile Internet – the way users connect to the internet are diverse, and includes such devices as iPads, smartphones, Kindles, etc, etc. The way the internet is being used is changing – there are new social and collaboration norms.

Mark Lewis who gave the above thoughts, also pointed out that businesses need to be able to survive they must have the ability to change quickly. A new “partnership” is required between the business, and IT, rather than IT just supplying solutions/technology that the users must use.

The message that came through from all the three speakers is that most innovation is happening on the consumer side, and that EMC has to be open to this, and willing to accept, respond to external changes. Their new Mission is to “help customers get maximum leverage through:

  1. Help organisations to reduce risk
  2. Increase Agility,
  3. Lower cost”

A new Information Management Technology stack” (according to EMC) was shown that consisted of three layers:

Jeetu expanded on this by adding that the bottom layer also includes “Federation”. EMC recognises that information may reside in the repositories of different systems. They want to still add value.

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Captain Kirk is killing Innovation

Captain Kirk is killing Innovation

Scott Berkun’s presentation

Once upon a time, Scott Berkun  gave a presentation on the Mythology of Innovation

I was really inspired by Berkun’s presentation. I watched it once, and then again, and then tried to make notes of what he was saying during the presentation.

Berkun talks about how much of what we know about innovation is wrong as he explored the history of innovation and creative thinking.

The notes I made take up eight pages. These are available via the links below. However, in a nutshell, Berkun points out that innovation is not some magical thing that just happens. It requires a lot of hard work, and a lot of failure. Often when we look at someone/something successful, we don’t see the work that was put in to get to that point.

Mythology of Innovation

Berkun gives many examples of people who are famous in history for their discoveries and points out that it is the “mythology” surrounding the discoveries.  We remember the discovery without being aware of the hours put in to get to that it. Two examples he gives are Newton who is remembered for discovering gravity when he got hit on the head by an apple, Archimedes who cried Eureka! when he was in the bath.

Two examples he gives are Newton who is remembered for discovering gravity when he got hit on the head by an apple, Archimedes who cried Eureka! when he was in the bath.

He goes onto to illustrate how failure is also a part of innovation. The Colosseum in Rome is lauded as being an amazing piece of architecture and shows what great builders the Roman’s were.

However, we don’t get to see the attempts that failed. They don’t exist anymore. Remaining are just the attempts that were successful. There are several modern examples also that include Google, Apple, Flickr.

Captain Kirk is responsible!

At one point in the presentation, Berkun claims that James T Kirk is responsible for killing innovation. Why? Because James T Kirk is the only modern day icon for exploration that we have today. The main story of exploration that is widely known is that of Captain Kirk, and the Enterprise and it’s ongoing mission to seek out new life, etc, etc.

The problem with this is that within the first few opening minutes of the program Star Trek, a new planet has been discovered. And then with the next few minutes, something exciting has happened. And so it goes on.

We don’t get to see the boring bits. We don’t get to see the time spent just trying to find a new planet. And this is what happens a lot in real life . A new “discovery” is being made. There is a lot of excitement, and then…nothing. This is because it usually takes years, and years, and years before the new discovery is something useful, viable, or commercially profitable.

As I mentioned, Scott Berkun’s presentation really caught my attention. He had a very dynamic way of presenting this information. I recommend you follow the links below to learn more.

My Notes from Berkun’s presentation

Scott Berkun’s presentation on YouTube

Related Resources

(Important Disclosure]

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