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Key Innovation Quotes and Observations from Day 1 of BEI

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Today was the first day of the Back End of Innovation (BEI) Conference here in Silicon Valley and there was a good roster of thought leader and innovation practitioner speakers. Tomorrow promises to be more of the same. If you don't follow me on twitter where I tweet as @innovate then you will have missed my thoughts on what some of the key innovation quotes and observations were from Day One, so I'll recollect them here the best that I can.

The event began with Julie Anixter of Innovation Excellence and Ronald Jonash of IXL and a discussion of a new Global Innovation Certification and the need for innovation training and certification. A BETA of the innovation certification was announced and I will be providing eLearning for the Global Innovation Certification BETA beginning November 24, 2013.

We then heard about the importance of branding your technical innovations and rationalizing your portfolio from Dee Slattery of Ansell and then of cocreation with Thomas Finkle of Passenger.

Mick Simonelli (formerly of USAA) then walked us through an innovation practicum during which there were several key nuggets, including:

  • A show of hands indicated that most people in the room at #bei13 are building innovation capability, while only a few are at event level of maturity or the system level
  • "It's sexy at the front end of innovation, but it's the sweat & toil in middle & back end that makes it happen."
  • "Innovation does not grow in a vacuum. You have to get your innovation approach into how people think about the way we do things around here."
  • We had a very positive impact by moving legal input from the front end of innovation to the back end.
  • "We had five different innovation processes at USAA and different integration points for each one for best impact."
  • "The HR people should be your best friends when it comes to infusing innovation into your performance management system."

Then there was a great comment from a gentleman from Boeing that captured the insight about innovation success coming from idea quality not idea quantity - "Ideas of Merit."

Ken Favaro of Booz & Co. focused on talking about why innovation doesn't work and had a few interesting tidbits, including:

  • "To think outside the box, you must look into other boxes." - Prof William Duggan of Columbia
  • For innovation success, involve people required for back end implementation in the front end - early buy-in & engagement

Mike Hess of Medtronic talked about how they balance between customer-led and economic-led innovation with tech-led innovation, and some of the logical traps organizations fall into, such as stealing resources from longer-term, higher-risk innovation projects to staff shorter-term, lower-risk ones.

Finally, the day closed with Dennis Hong of Virginia Tech (and soon UCLA) talking about the evolution of humanoid robots, and Vivek Wadhwa talking about women in innovation. Vivek Wadhwa talked about his women innovator's book project and the controversy he stirred up by pointing out that Twitter has an all male management team and all male board. Meanwhile, Dennis Hong focused on his philosophy for why robots in the home should have humanoid form and that is because robots in the home need to adapt to human-centered designs. So instead of asking why do we need humanoid robots, we should ask what robotic tasks require a humanoid form? This is leading them to focus on robots for firefighting and other hazardous situations, to help save human lives.

If you're at the conference, what did you take away from Day One?

I wonder what Day Two will bring?

P.S. I am at the Back End of Innovation conference if you have an innovation issue or need you'd like to discuss. Come find me!


Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B inbound marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He has recently begun distributing Innovation eLearning and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

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Upcoming event

FEI USA: Front End of Innovation

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