Wiki thoughts podcasts from Mayfield and Wales

I just finished listening to several podcasts on wiki use. The first is from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, speaking at the Mass Technology Leadership Council in early 2006.

He provided some very good insight into the social and community aspect of Wikipedia. One of the interesting observations he shared is that of reputation versus community. In some social networking systems on the web there are reputation scores for people that participate, and Slashdot provide some form of this. However, Jimmy said people do not walk around offices and hall ways with badges displaying single scores representing their reputation. Dialog and communication among people can not be boiled down to a single representation. This is where he believes Wikipedia works with their talk/discussion pages.

Podcast MP3 link

The second podcast is Ross Mayfield's conversation on wikis with Jon Udell on Aug 4th, 2006. Ross is the CEO of Socialtext, a commercial provider of wiki software.

Ross provided some insightful info on commercial use of wikis; There is a need for quick setup of secured private wikis. He said this is against the "norm" of wikis (private/secured) yet in business there is a need. Socialtext has put this type of functionality in their product. Additionally, Ross announced that the Socialtext software platform is going open source. This will provide innovation to the enhancement and development of the software by the wide wiki community.

Podcast MP3 link

Lastly, there is lots on news/info from Wikimania 2006, which just concluded Aug 6th. Much still to absorb from this gathering.

Update: Good Wikipedia metrics talked about by Jimmy Wales at Wikimania 2006. The Wales introduction is a bit long, skip to 5 min and 20 seconds into audio.

Podcast MP3 link

And there was humor on wikis presented in Jimmy Wales' opening talk: Stephen Colbert Analyzes Wikipedia and gives us a new word Wikiality, YouTube video link and just audio, the first 2 minutes.

Image from Ross Mayfield, CEO Socialtext.
  • Where are you as a company?

Quote pulled from Socialtext site

  • WYSIWYG coming to wikis: Example in Wikimedia.

Return on Investment versus Return on Innovation

I was recently asked about how one could calculate the return on investment (aka ROI) for innovation creation.

To clarify, the person was asking if there were information to show what the return on investment had been for companies that did and did not take on innovation actions.

My initial response was to talk about the cost of not innovating. Ruth Ann Hattori, from ThinkSmart, created a great essay on this very topic. The question "What happens when you don't innovate but your competition does?" sums up the essence of the essay. Think Sony missing the iPod phenomenon or GM missing the boat on creating what Toyota did with the Prius.

Since the term Return on Investment is used in all sorts of ways, it helps to explain its use in the context of innovation. ROI, in short, is a calculation that compares the value returned to the resources expended to accomplish a specific action. In the finance world value and resources are usually money; comparison of the money earned (or lost) on an investment to the amount of money invested. For innovation ROI, the desire is to compare the resources put into innovation (activities, processes, and action) and compare them to the value of the outcomes (new patents, new products, new services, profit on those new products/services, etc.).

Ruth Ann's key point in her essay was to highlight the need to also consider the cost of not innovating. While the dollars spent on innovation activities and the value returned can be compared, serious efforts need to be taken to consider the costs of not doing the innovation actions. She also hinted at the possibility of over analyzing out of existence any innovation actions before they even start.

In the book Innovator's Solution, Clay Christensen and Michael Raynor talk about over analysis, not on ROI specifically, but on ideas created. They said that organizations strip the "potential from new ideas before they ever see the light of day". Trying to calculate ROI for early innovation efforts may wipe away the idea of doing innovation practices because the "lucrative hurdle" is not crossed.

However, there is still a desire for some sort of quantitative information on innovation actions. After all, people in business are always trying to reduce their risks, and launching a set of innovation actions can be risky, especially if innovation principles are not well understood. Are there examples of companies that implemented innovation activities and the outcomes from those activities? And, are there examples of companies that did not implement innovation activities and the outcomes from not doing those activities?

The answer is yes to the first one. Business Week regularly highlights many examples of companies that are labeled "innovative" because of their innovation actions. The article "Masters of Innovation" highlights 25 people and their efforts to create an innovation culture. By extension, each of these people's companies are thought to be very innovative, using some form of the definition of innovative. Target in marketing innovation competing against the likes of Wal Mart, K-Mart, and Sears; Apple in product design (iPods, iMacs, etc) competing against Dell and IBM (computers), and Sony (mp3 players); and Proctor & Gamble in harvesting ideas from outside company competing against Energizer (batteries), Clorox (household products), and SC Johnson (household products).

The hard one to answer is "are there examples of companies that did not implement innovation activities and the outcomes from not doing those activities?". The answer is certainly yes, but it is difficult to identify them if those companies' innovation efforts were not publicly available. There are a few: Apple Computer had very mundane products between 1993 to 1997 and was rumored to be on the block to be bought up by everyone from AT&T to IBM. Apple came back to life when Steve Jobs returned in 1997, returning the innovation spirit and practice to the company.

IBM throughout its life has had great innovation processes and products and then some years of mundane products. Each return to greatness was preceded by a new leader that instilled a new sense of mission and gave employees a sense of responsibility with creative and innovation authority.

I believe that innovation actions are important to implement. Are these innovation actions quantifiable in an ROI calculation? I think only partially. There is enough evidence in the press to show that innovation actions can help but are not the only thing required to become an innovative company. There are also enough stories where certain innovation actions are stopped and the companies suffer.

One of the assumptions about doing an ROI calculation on innovation actions is that the innovation actions and processes are well understood and known so as to "predict" the outcome. The Innovator's Solution book best addresses this topic in chapter one under "Is Innovation a Black Box?". Christensen and Raynor provide a great dissection of the belief's that innovation is a function of people talent, risk aversion, and a playing of the odds.

Products and servcies

Innovation Igniter™ - A learning system that empowers you and your people to create new innovations and real value.

Survey of People-Practices in Innovation™ - Knowing Where to Begin. InnovationCreation believes that innovation is defined as adding value through the implementation of new ideas, and every organization has some capacity to innovate. Those organizations hoping to increase their innovation capacity must "take their temperature" from time to time, first to establish a baseline and then to measure progress. The Survey of People-Practices in Innovation™ is a self-diagnostic tool that can provide immediate direction for moving forward.

Innovation Game Plan™ – a complete guide to developing a sustainable competency of innovation. One feature of the Innovation Game Plan™ is the determination of whether or not you can do what needs to be done by marshalling internal resources or if you will need to bring in outside trainers and consultants. Another aspect of the Innovation Game Plan™ is helping you build a business case for the program in order to gain the buy-in and budget needed to make it a success. This involves linking the innovation work directly to the strategic objectives of the organization and developing the metrics that will be used to measure the success of the program.

InnovationWizard™ - a rich innovation resource that offers tools, processes, and information about innovation.

A common wisdom is “Well begun; half done.” We operate on that philosophy and believe that our unique competence is in helping organizations do the upfront design and thinking that will take them where they want to go.

InnovationWizard™, Survey of People-Practices in Innovation™, Innovation Game Plan™, and Innovation Igniter™ are trademarks of ThinkSmart, LLC.

About InnovationCreation

Flickr pictures
    This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from jlblue tagged with gnomedex2007. Make your own badge here.
    This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called 2006 Podcast Expo. Make your own badge here.
    This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Elsie Stix. Make your own badge here.