On Friday, I had an interesting discussion with the CEO and executive team of an international distribution sector company about innovation management in the enterprise. I started with describing the insights of the IBM CIO study, the largest known sample of face-to-face conversations with 2,598 CIOs to understand their goals and challenges. The study demonstrated that CIOs spend an impressive 55% of their time on activities that SPUR INNOVATION and help the business. One of IBM’s former CIOs liked to say that CIO stands for Chief INNOVATION Officer – I always liked when he said that.
I usually describe the innovation management life-cycle as consisting of four phases: 1) you come up with an idea, 2) have to get “buy-in” and mobilize others around it, 3) pilot and incubate it, and 4) implement and deploy. In a traditional top-down idea management model, management drives the selection process. Open innovation follows the same basic phases as the traditional top-down-decision driven model, except the community selects ideas through rating, commenting on them or actually using the pilots. The community also helps to incubate the pilot through a feedback loop.
In IBM, we piloted and implemented many interesting programs and technologies to manage open innovation, from idea creation to deployment. Two of the most successful and widely used are Jams and the Technology Adoption Program (TAP).
Jams are worldwide, online brainstorming sessions where all participants can share, comment on, rate and follow each other’s ideas and discussions. A jam is an event that takes place over a specified period -- usually a few days -- where the entire workforce or a community (e.g. all IT Architects) comes together to shape everything from new business ideas to core values. They are actually…addictive; you can lose sleep over them. I remember last year participating in the IBM Academy of Technology Jam that lasted over 3 days. I thought if I go to sleep, I might miss interesting real-time discussions and not able to catch-up with threads.
If an idea can be implemented as an application, a service, or a widget, it can be piloted on TAP. TAP is a community driven model for introducing and managing access to new technologies and solutions (some are early versions of products or situational applications). It consists of an intranet portal and a shared centrally-managed infrastructure for hosting and promotion of innovation offerings. Innovators share their innovation offerings through TAP with everyone who has access to the intranet to access, use, and provide feedback to innovators.
We held the first Jam session in 2001; the TAP idea was conceived in early 2005. Talking to others who plan to implement tools and programs for open innovation management, makes me realize that we sometimes take it for granted that these open innovation tools exist and have flourished within IBM for many years.
We ended the discussion agreeing that a successful CIO builds a culture of open innovation in her enterprise and that open innovation is an important ingredient of workplaces of the future….except some of us work in those future workplaces now…