The Life and Death of Innovation Communities

Innovation has been a business buzzword for decades. Yet despite this, we continue to seek out innovation where every it may hide within our organisations.

Over recent years, with the rise of social networks, some of this “beyond the firewall” thinking has crept into the enterprise. The concept that good ideas, practices and even innovation can be sourced or nurtured by a community has been trialled by Dell and by Starbucks on fairly large scales – but how does that apply in a B2B framework? What does it mean for a business ecosystem, and what gives (and takes) life away from these communities of innovation?

Marilyn Pratt and Anne Hardy have had some considerable experience in this field, playing important roles in the 2.5 million member strong SAP Community Network. They are also heavily involved in driving the practice of inclusiveness and design thinking across developer business communities – leading workshops on this subject in the US, Europe and Asia throughout 2011. In this video, Marilyn and Anne share some of their knowledge – and tips for things you can apply in your own search for innovation.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

One of the things that I continue to love about blogging and bloggers is their willingness to tackle interesting issues and problems. You see, blogs are transition spaces – where ideas can be tested and improved – where the community can be brought into a debate and concepts synthesized. These posts from last week pose some interesting challenges and opportunities – but they are always only starting points. Your comments and ideas are also appreciated!

  1. Renee Blodgett has written one of the best posts on the topic of influence that I have read in some time. She asks What is REAL influence? Will Klout and other tools define and control you or will you define them? Big, interesting questions!
  2. What are the key priorities for your influencer program? Maria Ogneva suggests stepping away from that bevy of measuring tools and focus on two things. Any guesses what they’d be?
  3. One of the reasons that “influence” is such a hot topic is that online search is being curated – through Google, Facebook, Twitter and almost every other network we connect with. And it is being curated by algorithms combined with those we know, trust and connect with. As Stefano Maggi says, it’s pointless optimising for SEO if we aren’t also optimising for people.
  4. Now you can accept credit card payments with an iPhone. Hear how you can get top shelf marketing services with a simple swipe and a smile from my man, Drew McLellan. Now, I just wonder whether this wonderful Square service works in Australia!
  5. What do you prefer, giving, getting or being the inside scoop? Your answer tells a lot about you. Just ask Valeria Maltoni.

Are Australian Businesses Bereft of Imagination?

Over the last couple of weeks I have watched the growth and spread of the #occupy movement – from the financial district of New York City to the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. This dishevelled and ramshackle mob seem to have touched a nerve. There’s a deep insecurity that is triggering a disproportionate response from Australian businesses, business people, politicians of all shapes and sizes and everyday individuals. Clearly we like our round pegs round.

And in almost the same timeframe I have been amazed at the way an Australian icon brand like Qantas has chosen to wilfully trash over 90 years of brand equity, focusing on the square peg problems of its unions, leaving thousands of its customers stranded across the world without a word of warning.

In a way, these problems have the same root cause – a chronic lack of imagination – something that has plagued our business sector for decades. Just look at the product launches of new “innovations” which are pale imitations of things that have been available overseas for years. Look at the way our industry leaders doggedly defend their oligopolies and market share, taking competitors to court and lobbying government for subsidies, tax reductions and bailout guarantees – and then complain when customers fed up with poor service, take their brand loyalty (and their wallets) and shop elsewhere.

When you have a square peg, a round hole and a hammer – well, you know it’s going to be used.

And I think – think – being the operative word – that this is the real promise of the #occupy movement. #Occupy is a challenge that is being thrown down to the big problems of our time – and it seems that we have no capacity to creatively respond to it. It’s disappointing.

By comparison – take a look at what Starbucks is doing in the US with its Create Jobs for USA campaign. They are teaming up with community lending institutions to provide financing to community businesses – and throwing in the first $5 million. Individuals can donate too – and receive a wristband with the poetic inscription indivisible.

And then take a look how this word has spurned a movement – a Twitter hashtag backed up by individual stories, crowdsourced support and community impact. David Armano talks a little about it here. A problem (and it is a shared problem) is identified, a business engages creatively – and as a business ecosystem – and the community steps in and supports it.

Now imagine if someone – anyone – over at Qantas had considered its communities of loyal travellers. Imagine if an idea had been sparked around these big problems – and that some action had been taken – not to amplify the problem, but to generate a solution.

You see, David Armano is right. Whether we like it or not, we are indivisible. We are linked irrevocably to the problems and challenges of others. So rather than ignoring them, it’s about time we #occupied our imagination and got to work on the challenges ahead of us all.

Influence, Tools and Takeouts

In the social media world, a lot of time spent thinking about, writing about and attempting to develop this elusive thing called “influence”.

Some people have it, many people want it and it seems, we all want to know how to measure it. But, of course, this “influence” is really about an individual’s ability online to:

  • Create a topic of conversation
  • Get others to talk about a topic of conversation
  • Generate click throughs on a topic

Does this really equate to “influence”? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Regardless, a number of companies have been developing ranking and measurement systems that assess your online influence. They take into account a variety of factors – counting your number of followers on Twitter, your “friends” on Facebook and even connections on LinkedIn. Their systems analyse your online activities, arriving at a “score” which you can proudly place on your website or blog.

But the real question is not “what is your score?” – but “what is theirs?”. Which of these tools are worth spending some with? Which yield the most useful information from a business and individual level?

The RabbitAgency has put together a great newsletter teasing out some of the differences between the major players. It turns the microscope around and assesses Klout, PeerIndex and Kred, leaving you with plenty of food for thought.

The Rabbit Feed on social media influence

StumbleUpon: Where Randomness meets Serendipity

When I first started blogging, every now and then I’d receive an avalanche of traffic. In fact, the first time it happened it crashed my server (I had been running the blog on a server in my garage, and it just could not cope) – and I ended up switching to Typepad.

The culprit was StumbleUpon.

These days, social networks like Twitter or Facebook garner most of the attention, but this new infographic from column 5 media shows just how powerful StumbleUpon can be. In fact, it drives over 50% of social media traffic in the US. And the coolest thing is that while pages shared via Twitter have a half life of about 3 hours, stumbled pages are over 130 times more effective.

StumbleUpon also has a cool way of managing and scheduling your shared links. Called, it helps you optimise your shared links by time of day – I wrote about it here. And while many people tend to dislike the StumbleUpon toolbar, with a small investment of your time, the system can deliver you some great content and plenty of new on-topic information. It takes the randomness of the web out and replaces it with serendipity. What more could you ask for?


The Creative Innovation Conference You Don’t Want to Miss

In almost every presentation I give, there is some reference to Ray Kurzweil, a nod to Edward de Bono and a smattering of the design thinking process that came from IDEO. And I am sure I am not alone.

Just consider how readily you respond to business or customer challenges, employing a version of lateral thinking in your problem solving technique. Consider how easily you think about the use of mobile and digital technologies and the way they can be incorporated into our behavioural landscape. And consider how you engage your stakeholders and frame a response to their challenges. Yes, de Bono, Kurzweil and IDEO have pervasively infiltrated our minds and the way that we work – and sometimes we hardly even notice.

So imagine if there was a conference which brought together these creative innovators. Then imagine that it went further – including folks like Pete Williams from Deloitte, Craig Davis from Mojo and BrandKarma, and a bevy of leading thinkers from James Moody to Gus Nossal and Hugh Mackay. And then, imagine, that such a conference would be held near where you live – say, Melbourne. Then, what you’d have is the Creative Innovation 2011 conference.

For two days, 16-18 November (hurry up and register!), the Sofitel on Collins will glow with the collective intellect of a global consciousness. You want to bathe in that brainy brine, right? If so, you’d better get going.

Gruen Planet Gives Gambling a Slap

Each week, the Gruen Planet poses a creative challenge to two advertising agencies. The resulting TV ad is then judged by the panel.

This week, the challenge was to rebrand Australia’s greatest horse race – the Melbourne Cup. Is it possible to turn Australians against the event “that stops a nation”?

The winning clip from Sense was devastating. Take a look. If I was Andrew Wilkie, I’d be talking to Sense and asking to run this ad.

The Melbourne Cup, Gambling and the Cognitive Surplus

That wild, wonderful thing that is Wikipedia has changed our lives in all sorts of subtle ways. Gone are the vast bookshelves of leather bound tomes that held me in thrall as a child – and in their stead is a white page, an empty search field and a button.

Amazingly, as Clay Shirky reminds us, Wikipedia was built by a global collective donating 100 million hours of time to its grand vision. But this cognitive surplus is just a drop in the ocean of time that is spent by Americans watching television each year – estimated to be many times that number.

Now, while this is fascinating as a data fact, what I am more interested in is the substitution that is taking place. You see, for 100 million people to donate one hour of their time – a deliberate choice is being made. The choice is to create rather than to consume. And the thing is – as humans, we seek the pleasure of consumption over the cold choice of decision. We have to be driven to act. Compelled. Consumption, after all, is the easy way.

Now think about the current debate in Australia around the regulation of gambling. Clubs across Australia are claiming that these regulations will impact their ability to employ people and to support the community through their charitable giving and community support programs. But as Ben Eltham points out, most clubs direct a miserly proportion of their revenues into such programs:

Or examine the Rooty Hill RSL, also in Sydney’s western suburbs … Poker machines raked in $43.2 million of the club’s total operating revenue of $64.7 million … [with only] $601,000 [spent] on donations.

What would happen if INDIVIDUALS actually chose where to invest their “community support” programs? I’d actually be keen to see some small percentage being funnelled into a microloan style service or even an insurance fund to help problem gamblers (but that is a whole other blog post).

Today, on Melbourne Cup day, the folks over at have put together this infographic that images what could be done with all those wagers being made at the track and at betting agencies across the country. Makes you think – what good could we do if we made better decisions? What indeed.