One of my highlights was definitely playing with the Spotme networking devices that all attendees received. These hand-held gizmos represent the acceptable face of stalking, enabling you to browse a list of attendees and track relevant people as they move around. It then alerts you every time your target comes within a 25ft radius of you so you can catch them and exchange knowledge. The technology isn’t perfect yet, but it just might be the future of networking.
- Financial incentives actually lower creativity. Dan Pink, author of “DRIVE,” discussed how to (and how NOT to) motivate innovators. He shared Dan Ariely’s behavioral research, which found that although financial rewards improve performance at simple tasks, they actually worsen performance at tasks that require “even rudimentary cognitive skill.” Instead of using financial rewards, Dan recommends 3 emotional motivators: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the freedom to decide how to get your work done. A great example is Google’s “20% Time” – the time employees may spend however they wish on projects of personal interest – which has produced many of Google’s best innovations, including Gmail. Mastery is having a sense of personal achievement and progress. Corning’s innovation group has an effective way of shining a light on personal achievements: weekly project reviews whether or not the teams are ready. As Deb Mills – Corning’s Early Stage Marketing Director – explains, this actually boosts engagement by highlighting even minor achievements . Finally, purpose is a sense of working towards a higher goal.
- A clear value proposition drives effective innovation. Mohan Sawhney, author of “Collaborating with Customers to Create”, discussed how a well-articulated value proposition keeps Product Management, R&D and Marketing on the same page and prevents the addition of “just in case” features that aren’t critical to the customer. He also noted that innovators should consider their value proposition for distributors, partners, resellers, complementors and regulators as well as customers. When assessing the value proposition, ensure the potential benefit (promise, differentiation) outweighs the potential sacrifice (price, risk, effort of switching).
- Innovate around higher-order emotional needs, not just functional needs. Janet Carr, SVP Consumer Insights at Coach, discussed how Coach bags often serve an emotional purpose (e.g., status, confidence, self-indulgence), rather than a functional one. Mohan Sawhney also emphasized that product benefits should affect how customers ‘act, think, and feel’. Too often new product developers focus heavily on functionality (the ‘act’ element alone) and overlook the importance of addressing unmet emotional needs.
- Specialize innovation roles. Brenda Tollett, Innovation Director at Ashland, recommends identifying idea generators (people who are good at coming up with the seed of the idea) and idea builders/refiners (people who are good at spotting potential and building on it) and inviting both to ideation sessions.
- Translating ideas into action is hardest. According to a quick poll of conference attendees, the hardest parts of innovation are getting sponsorship (14% of respondents rated this hardest), selecting ideas (29% rated this hardest), and translating ideas into action (36% rated this hardest).
- “Ideas are like babies.” Jennifer Jorgensen, Marketing Manager at General Mills, explained that ideas are defenseless and need champions. She warned not to discount ideas too soon (even if early testing isn’t promising) because small tweaks can make a big difference. Instead, “iterate, iterate, iterate” until you find a version/realization of the idea that resonates with customers.