Thursday, April 29, 2004

Innovation's Journey

Innovation is a journey. Every innovation has a history and a future. It also has a present and our role is to help innovation have the brightest future it can, depending upon its history and the ever shifting market and organizational environments.

There are seven stages in the development of innovation. Most innovations falter somewhere on the journey from ideation to social or economic impact. At any moment in time on this journey there are two road maps that must be developed. The first is the market road map for innovation - what are the alternate paths to take advantage of the opportunities (and avoid the threats) created by the demographic, sociopolitical, technological and economic driving forces for change, delight customers, satisfy stakeholders and gain a competitive advantage thereby increasing profitability. The second is the organizational development road map for innovation - the alternate paths that the organization could take to be able to produce the innovations required by the market road map. The combination is the innovation road map. The engine that drives this journey is the interaction of creativity, strategy and leadership.

Paul Schumann

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Business Model Innovation

In my expereince I have found that it is the profile of innovations that determines how successful an innovative product or service will be. That profile is determined by the mix of class of innovations (incremental, distinctive and breakthrough) coupled with the nature of the innovations (product, process and procedure). Rarely will an innovative product succeed with only one the nine different types of innovation present. I think it is this pattern of innovation, as indicated it the innovation profile, that constitutes a business model.

Ernesto Sirolli speaks about his experiences in Esperance, Australia in helping would be entrepreneurs succeed. Two of his early experiences make this point about business models and innovation.

Esperance, a small rural town in Australia, was economically devastated at the time of Sirolli's work. An out of work fisherman had developed a new way to smoke fish in his garage. People liked the taste but the amount of business he was generating was too small to support him. With financing and marketing support, his business became successful. In terms of the innovation profile, he had a distinctive product innovation that is made with a distinctive process innovation. But the business was not successful until incremental procedure innovations were included. His business model for this product launch was then complete and the business was on its way.

In the second case, Sirolli describes the plight of other fishermen in the town. They had been salmon fishers, but the market was depressed for salmon. They found that they could catch tuna, but they had no distribution or marketing system. Sirolli provided these and not only was the business launched but it became a very successful ongoing business with significant economic impact to the town. Again, in terms of the innovation profile, the fishermen had a distinctive product innovation. It became successful when paired with a distinctive process innovation and a breakthrough procedure innovations. An innovative business model was complete.

I will write more about this in a review of Sirolli's book, Ripples from the Zambezi, the July 2004 edition of the Innovation Road Map Magazine.

Paul Schumann

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Leather Apron Club (The Junto)

Benjamin Franklin created the first workingman-networking club in America. In Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, the author describes Benjamin Franklin's approach to networking. A modern version of this would work well in today's environment.

Isaacson writes, "Franklin was the consummate networker. He liked to mix his civic life with his social one, and he merrily leveraged both to further his business life." The Junto, formed in 1727, was a group of tradesmen and artisans, not the elite that frequented fancier gentleman's clubs. "The tone set for Junto meetings was earnest. Initiates were required to stand, lay their hand on their breast, and answer properly four questions: Do you have any disrespect for any current member? Do you love mankind in general regardless of religion or profession? Do you feel people should ever be punished because of their opinions or mode of worship? Do you love and pursue truth for its own sake?" A Socratic style of conversation was employed.

"Discussions were to be conducted without fondness for dispute or desire of victory. Franklin taught his friends to push their ideas through suggestions and questions, and to use (or at least fain) naive curiosity to avoid contradicting people in a manner that would give offense." He urged this style on the Constitutional Convention later.

The topics ranged from the social to the scientific and metaphysical. Franklin laid out a guide for the type of conversational contributions each member could usefully make. Some of them were (there were 24 in all):

"1. Have you met with anything in the author you last read remarkable or suited to be communicated to the Junto?

2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?

3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?

4. Have you lately heard of any citizen's thriving well, and by what means?

5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?

6. Do you know of any fellow citizen who has lately done a worthy action deserving praise and imitation? Or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?

7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? Of imprudence? Of passion? Or of any other vice or folly?

12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting that you heard of and what have you heard of his character or merits? And whether you think it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him or encourage him as he deserves?

14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country of which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment?

15. Have you lately observed any encroachments on the just liberties of the people?

16. Has anybody attacked your reputation lately, and what can the Junto do toward securing it?

17. Is there any man whose friendship you want and which the Junto or any of them can procure for you?

20. In what manner can the Junto or any of them assist you in any of your honorable designs?"

According to the Innovation Profile definitions, the Junto would be a breakthrough procedure innovation.

The next edition (to be published this month) of the Innovation Road Map Magazine has a book review and an article on the innovation profile of the innovations of Benjamin Franklin.

Paul Schumann

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Cool Tools for Change

I attended a one day conference last week entitled "Cool Tools for Change"( It covered some inexpensive (many are free) ways to help community organizations run more smoothly while strengthening social networks. There has been a proliferation of the information and networking, hardware and software, tools for social innovation. This has happened because of the convergence of two driving forces - Open Source and the driving force for participatory democracy. Open source is itself a "democratic" process for the development of very important software systems and modules. Cool Tools for Change is a project of students and faculty, the Community Informatics Team, at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin., also a project of the Community Informatics Team, is a resource and news site for organizations that need to use computers and the Internet, but which have to work with low budgets. New technologies and techniques are emerging that allow low-budget, community-based organizations to improve their use of information technologies and still stay within their financial means. Examples include Open Source software, new wireless networks and low-cost computers. This Web site is a way for people who work for low-budget organizations—such as nonprofits, schools, libraries, and small governmental units—to stay abreast of what's happening in the field of computer networking, and to learn more about what might be affordable.

The cool tools web sites mentioned above are under development, so if you don't see what you need now, come back in a few months and check again.

David Pearce Snyder, a consulting futurist, has been writing and saying for years that the Open Source methodology of developing software will become the way innovation is going to be developed in the future. He was right, as he often has been. These tools are innovations that are being developed with an Open Source model. For more information, read David's article, "Compexipacity", in the forthcoming edition (April 2004) of the Innovation Road Map Magazine.

deanspace was discussed several times as a prime example of how these tools can be used in grass root political developments. Even though the candidate has dropped out, the deanspace effort will live on in a new form. The development of this application using Open Source methology and tools, and the way it was used, is an innovation worth studying. It may give some clues into how organizations might operate in the future.

The biggest source of these Open Source software applications and software modules is There are many variations of the "Forge" concept as you can readily find out by searching on "open source forge". A brand new, early stage version of the "Forge" concept is It is a Wiki. A Wiki is a collaborative web site that can be edited by anyone. According to, "Wikis are great for building up a wealth of information about a subject by pooling substantial resources in the community. A Wiki can be used to help generate new ideas or document existing ones." The OrgForge Wiki is being developed to create the nonprofit analogue of the Open Source web sites for software. Its goal is to pool community experience in nonprofit organizations and to build an Open Source of that information.

All of this is about self-organizing systems, a topic of great importance to innovation and our future.

Paul Schumann