Tuesday, December 6

Blog from Barcelona

A bit like Gaudi's famous cathedral, the business of creativity is never finished ...

In Spring I was asked to speak on creativity at an innovation conference in Barcelona.    Luckily, this is one of my preferred places for conferences, so I was fairly quick to agree.

The conference took place last week - and what an interesting event!

First of all, the size of the group was excellent.   Just 30 people, so we mostly got to know each other over the two days.  Secondly, the group was also very diverse.  I was the only UK resident who made it there, with most of my peers coming from Spain, Germany or France.  

I went into this commitment already realising that my subject matter was a little niche. And that became ever more evident during the course of Day 1, with almost every speaker using at the core of his presentation some variant of the 'stage gate' model for innovation process management.    But all was not as it sounds:  Everyone speaking had their own distinct perspective, and there were sagely snippets from every conceivable angle.

At 4pm on Day 1, after the first 6 sessions, we knocked-off early for some very diverting sideshows:  First we toured the new biomedical research park (PPRB) by the beach, and then popped next door to look at some octopuses in the oceanography centre.  After that we had a tour of the incredibly grand Barcelona town by a very knowledgeable guide, who then offered us champagne.  

I'm not sure these activities were intended as 'random provocations' of the kind I evangelised about in my speaker slot the next day.  Probably they were intended more as directly relevant examples of innovative work.  But certainly they served both purposes.

For some reason, the conference organisers had asked me to act as chair for the second day.  This meant paying my full attention to everything that went on, in the hope of commentating effectively.  And I was glad of the opportunity:  how differently you look at material when you're obliged to organise it into some semblance of order!

So a successful event then, but mostly because of the range of stimulus offered, and the new thoughts it inspired.   A lot of the material was written from the perspective of the manufacturer developing new products, and a little interpretation was often required for it to make sense in the service sector.  

Some highlights ...
- If using Open Innovation, be very careful how you handle partners.   A potentially fruitful long-term partnership could easily be damaged by the first failed innovation.
- For most manufacturing organisations, having ideas is not the problem.  Filtering effectively is what demands the work.
- Spin-off separate concerns to pursue specific big ideas.  They won't be bound by the same constraints which slow down your large organisation, and they'll also be able to partner more effectively with academic institutions.
- Three factors conspire to make for successful innovations.  If you only hit two, you need to focus everything on finding a way to hit the third:  technology solution, customer need, and commercial model.

Here's the URL, in case you'd like to attend a future event:  http://axiomgroupe.com/index.php?opt=conferences&see=36.

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