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The Ins and Outs of Innovation

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With BEI Back End of
Innovation 2013
quickly approaching, we wanted to get an expert's point of
view on innovation strategy in today's increasingly complex and competitive
business landscape. We were in luck. Maria B. Thompson, Director of Innovation
Strategy, Intellectual Asset Management, Office of the CTO at Motorola Solutions, recently sat down with us to discuss innovation strategy, execution, and culture.  Here is what she had to say:
IIR: What is a
fundamental characteristic or skill to lead innovation?

Thompson: Abstract
and analogous thinking skills are paramount to leading innovation. In order to
coach and mentor others to unleash their collective creativity, one must be
able to reframe problems and solutions in generic ways, so diverse-thinking non
subject matter experts in the domain of the problem can engage, and bring their
creative and novel perspectives to bear on a broader solution space.
'We cannot solve our problems with the same level
of thinking that created them.' Albert Einstein
IIR: What best
practices support successful innovation execution? What typically stands in its
Thompson: The key
aspect for successful execution on innovation is dedicated time and resources
for conversion of the original idea to a commercial high-business-value product
or service. In our experience, conversion must be treated as a first-class
program deliverable, with time allocated in Program Plans and Performance
Management evaluation systems. Our global Innovation Champions all have a
Performance Management goal to spend 20 percent of their time on Innovation,
which includes acting as evangelists for the best ideas and concepts that
should be resourced and moved onto our product roadmaps.
IIR: What is the
key to building an internal innovation culture?
Thompson: It
takes a village. In other words, you need to have a 'social' network of change
catalysts committed to the innovation cause. We call these catalysts
'Innovation Champions' and 'Inventor Mentors.' These change catalysts are role
models for innovation and inventing and co-resident at all global sites. They
are selected for their past contributions to innovative products, features and
services, and have performance goals they are measured on with regard to their
efforts to support an innovation culture and to increase innovation yield
within and across businesses.
IIR: What is the
biggest obstacle you faced in your innovation strategy? How did you overcome
Thompson: Time
and resource allocation. PDW, Performance Management' but mostly executive
sponsorship. Without senior leadership supporting and visibly recognizing and
rewarding employees for their efforts in prioritizing forward-looking work,
people will prioritize 'business-as-usual.'
IIR: What is a
piece of advice you would give companies who are creating a corporate
innovation strategy?
Thompson: Start
by building on innovative work people are already doing. Prioritize the most
important and strategic areas and communicate, communicate, communicate.
Recognize ongoing efforts aligned with these priorities, support them, and
reward them. Help everyone - across all functions- understand how they can
contribute to the innovation pipeline ' it is not only the engineering or
research role to be innovative!
Thompson will be
speaking at the upcoming BEI 2013
conference November 13-15 in Santa Clara, CA.
Amanda Ciccatelli,
Social Media Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print
journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and
technology. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web
Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the tech industry.
 She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at

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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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