Innovation and the Renaissance man (or woman)

The “Renaissance” men and women were naturally curious and didn’t have Google or the ability to view information at their fingertips. They worked for the information they consumed and were happy to contribute information and insights back. This broad networking and learning made them more innovative, to our great satisfaction, at least where governance is concerned.

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It’s increasingly obvious that good innovators come in all shapes and colors, all moods and forms.  What’s also obvious is that many of the best innovators seem to be “Renaissance” people – that is, people with a lot of interests or who are engaged in a lot of different fields.  This always poses an interesting chicken and egg question for me:  do you have to be a Renaissance person to be innovative, or do all innovators resemble Renaissance people?
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Has Google jumped the innovation shark?

I was thinking recently, with the demise of Google Wave, that it is entirely possible that Google has jumped the innovation shark. For those of you unfamiliar with the “jumped the shark” phrase, that harkens to a famous television show in the US. To boost ratings, a character decided to waterski and jump over a shark. The fact that the character couldn’t swim and was skiing in a leather jacket can tell you where this is headed. Everyone saw through the obvious ploy to drive ratings and the show continued to nosedive.

The question becomes then, has Google lost its edge, or is Google Wave an example of experimenting and failing forward, to bring new and better products to market?


Jeffrey Phillips | //innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com

I was thinking recently, with the demise of Google Wave, that it is entirely possible that Google has jumped the innovation shark.  For those of you unfamiliar with the “jumped the shark” phrase, that harkens to a famous television show in the US.  To boost ratings, a character decided to waterski and jump over a shark.  The fact that the character couldn’t swim and was skiing in a leather jacket can tell you where this is headed.  Everyone saw through the obvious ploy to drive ratings and the show continued to nosedive.

The question becomes then, has Google lost its edge, or is Google Wave an example of experimenting and failing forward, to bring new and better products to market? Leer más “Has Google jumped the innovation shark?”

Innovation and Porter’s Value Chain

First, let’s remind ourselves of the Value Chain Model. Portner’s insight was to identify all the primary functions of a business and all the support functions of a business and seek to understand what the firm did exceptionally well, and what it must do at least moderately well. While other strategists had thought and written about the linkages between internal operations, Porter was one of the first to create the concept of the Value Chain. Today we often think of the value chain as extending “upstream” to suppliers and “downstream” to distribution channels and even to customers or consumers. The tool is a powerful metaphor when thinking about where and how a firm adds value.

Primary activities are the ones we usually think of as distinct operations or departments and are the “direct” costs in a business – inbound and outbound logistics, “operations” which could be manufacturing or development, marketing and sales, and service. Support activities are those that we traditionally think of as “overhead” – Human Resources, Information Technology, Procurement, and what Porter called Firm Infrastructure – legal, financial, management and so forth.


les cinq forces de porter

by Jeffrey Phillips

I’m reviewing the relationship between a number of tried and true strategic management models and innovation, to see if those models and concepts hold up under the increasing importance of innovation.  A few days ago I reviewed Porter’s Five Forces model and concluded that while Porter didn’t explicitly call out innovation, it was clear that the Five Forces model embraced innovation.  Today, we’ll look quickly at another Porter model – the Value Chain Analysis – and investigate how it holds up innovation.

In the 1980s, Michael Porter wrote a number of books about corporate strategy that became the basis for much of the education of MBAs, at least where strategy was concerned.  Few MBAs in the 80s and 90s failed to study Porter’s Five Forces or Value Chain Analysis. Since many of those MBAs minted in that period are now in leadership positions in their firms, it behooves us to understand the models they carry around with them, and whether or not those models are open and extensible where innovation is concerned, or whether they ignore or resist innovation. Leer más “Innovation and Porter’s Value Chain”

Innovation and Porter’s Five Forces


I’ve been pondering the “truths” we hold dear and wondering whether or not the mental models we were taught in college and graduate school hold up under the changes occurring in our economy.  Do the great business thinkers of the past twenty or thirty years and their models and descriptions hold true, especially when we introduce innovation into the mix?  Over the next few months I’ll look at a couple of the models we hold dear and place innovation within the context of the model, to see if the model is extensible enough to account for innovation, or whether we may want to revise our thinking to account for innovation.

First up:  Porter’s Five Forces.  Michael Porter wrote the book on corporate strategy.  Well, he actually wrote a number of books about corporate strategy, competitive advantage and a number of other topics.  The books that were mantras when I was in school were Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage.  In these books and others Porter introduced models, tools and methods to analyze the firm and its competitive position and its competitive advantage.  Two of these tools, the “Five Forces” model and the Value Chain model, are ones that have become ingrained in the way we think about businesses strategically.  What I wanted to know is:  does the model hold up in light of an increased emphasis on innovation?
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Ideas and IP are the new product

As my final sally into the intellectual capital topics introduced by Mary Adams in her book Intangible Capital I wanted to respond to one other question that Mary posed. She asked – what’s the relationship between innovation and intangible capital. My answer to that is to paraphrase Keynes by saying we’re all innovators in the long run.

In today’s economy every business is an idea business. Think about it carefully. Is there a business you can think of that isn’t constantly trying to improve its operations, cut costs, increase market share? From the most automated manufacturer to the firms that make a living spitting out ideas for other firms, every firm is in the idea business. It’s simply a matter of how the ideas are used. In many firms that would scoff at the concept that they are idea businesses, the focus of idea generation is on improving productivity and efficiency.


As my final sally into the intellectual capital topics introduced by Mary Adams in her book Intangible Capital I wanted to respond to one other question that Mary posed.  She asked – what’s the relationship between innovation and intangible capital.  My answer to that is to paraphrase Keynes by saying we’re all innovators in the long run.

In today’s economy every business is an idea business.  Think about it carefully.  Is there a business you can think of that isn’t constantly trying to improve its operations, cut costs, increase market share?  From the most automated manufacturer to the firms that make a living spitting out ideas for other firms, every firm is in the idea business.  It’s simply a matter of how the ideas are used.  In many firms that would scoff at the concept that they are idea businesses, the focus of idea generation is on improving productivity and efficiency.  Leer más “Ideas and IP are the new product”

Book Review: Intangible Capital

Intangible Capital is a book that seeks to create a new way of thinking about our businesses and how we operate them. Traditionally our businesses and how we organize them, even how we measure and report on them, have been based on labor and tangible capital (property, plant and equipment). That’s because traditionally these were the motive forces behind how firms differentiated and made money. Firms that managed their tangible assets and labor effectively made more money than those that didn’t.

But what if the situation changed and tangible capital wasn’t as important as intangibles. Those intangibles might reflect the accumulated knowledge in the business, its strategies and recipes, its intellectual property and ideas. What happens to how we structure an organization and how we value an organization if intangible capital becomes as important, or more important, than physical capital?


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By Jeffrey Phillips

Intangible Capital is a book that seeks to create a new way of thinking about our businesses and how we operate them.  Traditionally our businesses and how we organize them, even how we measure and report on them, have been based on labor and tangible capital (property, plant and equipment).  That’s because traditionally these were the motive forces behind how firms differentiated and made money.  Firms that managed their tangible assets and labor effectively made more money than those that didn’t.

But what if the situation changed and tangible capital wasn’t as important as intangibles.  Those intangibles might reflect the accumulated knowledge in the business, its strategies and recipes, its intellectual property and ideas.  What happens to how we structure an organization and how we value an organization if intangible capital becomes as important, or more important, than physical capital? Leer más “Book Review: Intangible Capital”

The efficient use of ideas

Every significant “leap forward” in the span of human consciousness has coincided with a significant change in the efficient use of a significant resource. For example – the transition from nomadic life to farming. This transition came about because people learned to till the ground and grow food that was dependable and sustaining. The fact that people could stay in one place and have a consistent food source meant that they could take on other tasks. The more efficiently they used the soil, the more crops they could grow, and the more time available for other activities.


Frederick Winslow Taylor lived from 1856 to 1915
Image via Wikipedia

Every significant “leap forward” in the span of human consciousness has coincided with a significant change in the efficient use of a significant resource.  For example – the transition from nomadic life to farming.  This transition came about because people learned to till the ground and grow food that was dependable and sustaining.  The fact that people could stay in one place and have a consistent food source meant that they could take on other tasks.  The more efficiently they used the soil, the more crops they could grow, and the more time available for other activities.

Other “leaps” forward include the efficient use of labor (thanks Frederick Taylor) and the efficient use of capital, which has eventually brought us to the problems with financial engineering that we’ve encountered recently.  All Taylor cared about was understanding how to get the most, best, productivity out of the labor of individuals, while bankers, financiers and CFOs have their own metrics about the efficient use of capital – return on invested capital as an example.
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