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FEI Update: Exhaustion, Exhilaration, Inspiration

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What better words can I use to sum up my experience at Front End of Innovation? Exhaustion played a big factor in not getting a post up on Wednesday, followed by a day in the office playing catch-up with work. But I wanted to be sure I posted before the holiday weekend here in the US and share the details of the last day at FEI and some of my own thoughts on the experience. I want to say now I invite anyone who attended, speakers, delegates, and sponsors who would like to share their thoughts, please feel free to let me know I would welcome them as posts here on the blog.

First of all Wednesday morning began once again with an opening by Bumper Carroll of The Second City, he once again energized the crowd before the first keynote, A.G. Lafley. This was an interesting experience, it was a Q&A session moderated by Scott Anthony, president of Innosight, who began by asking A.G. several questions regarding his book, The Game Changer, which was then followed by several questions from the audience. I have to say I was very impressed by A.G. as were many in the hall, he clearly understand the need to work at innovation, not just for to succeed, but to learn from failures in order to continue evolving in the marketplace.

A.G. made some remarkable points including how the issue at P&G isn't the lack of ideas, a company that size with so many employees has an abundance of ideas bubbling to the surface. The issue he described is the process: moving so many ideas forward into development and commercialization. No small feat for any organization of any size. He also went on to describe how important the consumer is in this process. He pointed how often as companies gather feedback from their customers, they often can only tell you what they like and don't like, rather than what they want. Then he described one remarkable example. He talked about how the Tide cardboard boxes always received high marks in customer surveys; women regularly described them as the best packaging. With feedback like that P&G naturally assumed this was the case, but then A.G., before he was CEO, was in the field, actually side by side with women who were using these Tide cardboard boxes as they did their laundry. And he was amazed at how they opened these boxes. How do you think they opened them? With their hands? That's right; they often had screwdrivers or some other instrument to use to open these boxes in order to avoid damaging their nails. A small, simple insight that showed P&G that they actually did not know what their customer in fact needed.

I wish I can say I have a small podcast of at least one of his responses to some great questions, but of course in the 21st century I made the one cardinal mistake of technology. I forgot to check the batteries to recorder. Oh well. Don't forget, we had a video crew on hand recording our keynotes and in the coming weeks and months I'll be uploading them here and the event website.

Well after rushing out after A.G.'s session and buying and installing fresh batteries it was time for Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management. She had a very interesting presentation that covered the subject matter of her book, X-Teams. She went into some detail regarding the nature of X Teams, how they function distinctly from more traditional concepts of project teams in most organizations.

She focused on her case study of Microsoft's experience with their NetGen team. It was quite interesting; in fact, our camera operator video recording her session afterwards mentioned to me how he was the camera operator during Microsoft's project with the team and how they recorded hours upon hours of every moment with the team. I actually have a small podcast of Deborah describing the team HERE.

After Deborah, Ray Kurzweil, author, researcher, inventor, and technology expert presented. His was a very interesting presentation that looked at how technology has exploded at the end of the 20th century and now in the 21st century and as a result what impacts it has had on the economy, business and our society. He had some great examples of what has been done, one particular example was the advancement of cell phones, imaging and speech software that has very recently culminated in a cell phone for the blind that can take a photo of any written text and then read it out loud to the listener. It was amazing to see it actually work. At the end he answered questions from the audience; I recorded one of them HERE. He has also made his presentation available here.

Finally the last keynote presentation was given by Michael Giersch, VP of Strategic Planning, IBM Corporate Strategy. He gave an inside look at the tremendous changes that have occurred at IBM as they implemented strategy after strategy to foster and develop new business areas. He was very candid about the internal strife and failures IBM underwent until it finally developed a new strategy that it currently follows for emerging business opportunities. I think many of you will find this very interesting to see how painful it can be for a company to come up with new ways of expanding and evolving. I captured a small portion that you can listen to HERE.

After a morning packed with these great presenters, it was off to more networking and then break-out sessions and tracks. There really was so much to see and do. Putting on an event of this size with the caliber of speakers and collaborators is daunting to say the least. But many of you who attended had the chance to meet some of the team who did such a great job this year and at events past to make it worthwhile. I hope those of you who were at FEI felt it was more than worthwhile, it inspired you, and you left with new ideas for your own organizations. I also came away with some great ideas specifically regarding this blog and our LinkedIn group. I plan to share shortly and I truly hope I will get your input. For those of you who couldn't I hope these posts could at least give you a sense of the great experience here at FEI, and I hope those who did attend and agree it was a worthwhile experience will leave their own thoughts and perspectives either as comments or as blog posts if anyone is interested in posting.

As I mentioned we video recorded quite a bit of content so in the coming weeks we'll be upload and sharing here and to the LinkedIn group, and we welcome anyone who participated if they have any relevant content from the event or related to the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation, feel free to share. It's been a great experience attending FEI, I'm looking forward to our European event in Monaco next January. We'll certainly keep you informed of details in the coming months. Thank you all and stay tuned, we'll be sharing regularly with you so keep checking back often.

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FEI USA: Front End of Innovation

28 - 29 Oct 2020
FEI Presents: Leading Innovation in a Digital World
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