Perspectives on Connected Innovation and Collaboration

Don Smith’s Sabbatical Insights

Innovation Velocity

with 4 comments

This is a concept, a work in progress…

Velocity is classically defined as the rate of distance traveled over time. In the context of innovation, ideas move over time. And to be most useful, ideas require interactions with people in order to morph into innovations with business value

In a closed organization, an idea is likely to move as far as the idea holder’s personal network will take it. And the same idea will travel at a pace proportional to the idea holder’s communication plan. In other words, only so many people are able to interact with the idea, it’s fixed by the number of contacts in the idea holder’s network (n). Email to 20 contacts, you get 20 possible interactions as fast as they can read and respond.

In open or collaborative organizations, n is much larger. In networked or connected organizations, n is exponentially larger. Chances are the idea will be seen by your 20 contacts and their 20 contacts. And so on. More chances for interaction. The idea moves farther, but faster? Don’t know.

So here’s a question. How do you put the brakes on the process and capture the most valuable ideas? Feels like you need a funnel. Maybe the entire process can be thought of as a funnel made of mesh. Maybe the mesh is discontinuous. Each connection point a person. Some connection points are frayed and won’t flow. The idea has to flow around the web to the ejection point of value.

The bigger the funnel opening, the more people involved and more possible interactions. But the ejection point could remain the same size.

So, fast innovation only benefits those that can slow the process down. What size funnel is best?

Thoughts on this? Please share.


Written by Donald Smith

May 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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4 Responses

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  1. IMO something that often gets lost in the funnel concept is that innovation is a series of divergences and convergences. A funnel implies some degree of linearity in the process. I believe that the funnel is valid, as long as the appropriate diverge/converge steps are incorporated INTO the funnel. So it’s really a funnel with a series of hourglasses embedded into it.
    The keys to this are having a clear definition of the problem, having a large funnel opening (open organization), knowing when to diverge (identify lots of possible solutions to the NEXT question, not necessarily the FINAL question), and knowing when and how to converge (putting the brakes on the process to evaluate options). The output of each convergence is the starting point for the next divergence, so that it’s a series of mini experiments… or LEARN!
    I believe the size of organization should be larger in the diverge phases than in the converge phases.

    Amol Dixit

    May 13, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    • awesome build. process is key. innovation velocity is often worked on from the divergence side. but the balance is even more important. convergence needs good tools too

      Donald Smith

      May 13, 2009 at 6:50 pm

  2. How about this – the ideas will tell you when they’re done. As I read this I was thinking, shouldn’t the good ideas accelerate even faster than the average ones? Why slow them down?


    May 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm

  3. I believe we have a way to go on the culture before we get to the tactics (unfortunately). If division presidents are still telling us – I don’t want to publish my architectures, I get too much feedback on them already, we’re not going to get the buy-in to make revolutionary change happen. Perhaps the tools / methods need to be better understood on the receiving end. Some of the problems still come down to ownership and letting go. We need more winning case studies and to spread the word about groups who let go of preconcieved notions in the face of better ideas and benefited. If we have teams going to Campaign Reviews and cling to old ideas with their last nail, despite concensus otherwise, we need to make it clear how to win by letting go.

    Tom Martin

    May 20, 2009 at 11:36 am

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