Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Trend Spotted as Importance of Information Eclipsed by Importance of Innovation

I’ve recently come across three pundits talking about a shift in business away from a focus on information toward a focus on innovation. I think it’s worth paying attention to.

This quote from InformationWeek indicates that roles are shifting for the CIO from Chief Information Officer toward Chief Innovation Officer.

As the new millennium begins (no, that wasn't last year), I've come across a slight but very important change in the use of the title CIO. I recently talked with Ken Bohlen, CIO and executive VP of Textron, the global company that's into aircraft, automotive, industrial, and financial operations. His title doesn't stand for chief information officer but chief innovation officer. Could this be the new title for the new millennium?

Ken also says the CIO's role in the next five to 10 years will become an infomediary within a company, tying technology to business. "The CIO will morph into something different. The CIO needs to prepare the organization to accept whatever tomorrow might bring without knowing what that is." If we're going to be the innovators of the new millennium, we'll need to foster an attitude of wanting to learn, to be different, to change.

(InformationWeek, January 8, 2001)

It stands to reason that this shift is occurring, because of the information a Chief Information Officer could be managing for a corporation, the information about markets (and technologies for that matter) is probably the most important, as stated by Drucker:

“For most CEOs, the most important information is not about customers but about noncustomers…We must begin to organize information from the outside, where the true profit centers exist. We will have to build a system that gives this information to those who make decisions.”

Drucker, “Managing in the Next Society”, p. 54-55
Overall, some see a wholesale shift in the economy amounting to a renewed focus on innovation:

“The Knowledge Economy as we know it is being eclipsed by something new -- call it the Creativity Economy.”

“You're thinking "this is all hype," aren't you? Just another "newest and biggest" fad, right? Wrong. Ask the 940 senior executives from around the world who said in a recent Boston Consulting Group Inc. survey that increasing top-line revenues through innovation has become essential to success in their industry. The same BCG survey showed that more than half of the execs were dissatisfied with the financial returns on their investments in innovation. They should be. By one measure, from innovation consultant Doblin Inc., nearly 96% of all innovation attempts fail to beat targets for return on investment. No wonder innovation frustration is the talk of corner offices.”

(BusinessWeek, August 1, 2005)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Necessity is the mother of invention

The old maxim "Necessity is the mother of invention" comes from the following Aesop's fable. I just learned this from my favorite new invention, satellite radio.

The Crow and the Pitcher

A crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Reprinted from John R.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Interesting paper from IBM Business Consulting Services from 2004 indicating growth has returned as a major priority for CEOs. The paper can be found at Here are few key quotes I took away:

Executives sometimes view their growth potential as limited by a number of factors: the maturity of their industry and geographic "neighborhood," the size of the company and the difficulty of sustaining growth over time. This study strongly suggests these perceptions are self-imposed limits, not necessarily marketplace realities.

According to IBM, the best practice among the firms achieving top growth are:

• Course: The identification and selection of opportunities, the development of a winning model and the creation and funding of initiatives sufficient for sustaining growth. In setting course, executives should consider questions such as: where is the industry headed? Where do we play in this future? How will we win and keep winning?

• Capability: The activities, skills and assets that support the operational model and enable the successful execution of the growth strategy. Here, executives must ask:what do we need to win?

• Conviction: The creation of organizational belief, momentum and resilience in moving toward growth goals. The key question here is: how will we generate action, maintain momentum and bounce back from failure?

Regarding setting a course, IBM recommends:

• Understand the forces impacting the industry and how they will shape its future
• Demand and recognize insights from the business units and senior management on where value will be created
• Acknowledge areas of uncertainty and reassess the point of view on an ongoing basis
• Create internal forums for industry and strategic discussion, separate from operational reviews.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Low-Tech Inventions – Or “Why didn’t I think of that?”

  • Upside Down Ketchup Squeeze Bottle

  • Sliced bread – One person I know who spent time in Africa said they don’t have sliced bread there. The most number of slices you can get out of a loaf of fresh bread with a standard sharp knife is about 5 slices. If the bakery slices it with the best invention ever—the bread slicer—you can get a lot more slices out of that fresh loaf, so it’s truly an important low-tech invention.

  • Velcro - 'nuf said

  • Airborne – A simple herbal formula that many swear by.

  • FedEx – Spoke-and-hub distribution made next-day delivery anywhere in the US possible.

  • eBay – No fancy web technology here, just an old problem begging for new solutions.

  • Baking Soda Toothpaste

  • Baking Soda Odor Eater

  • Zero (0) – Believe it or not, the number 0 was not made up with the rest of the number system. It was invented independently by many societies to resolve certain mathematical ambiguities. (more info)

  • Trivia before movie previews – A great use of unoccupied time and space.

  • Atkins Diet - Eat meat, get fit. What could be more elegant?

  • Car Audio Cassette Adapter

  • Car Audio FM Transmitting Adapter

  • Purell antibiotic hand cleaner

  • Canned Condensed Soup - Invented by an MIT grad, Dr. John T. Dorrance, co-founder of Campbell's Soup.

  • Electric Guitar

  • Miniblinds

  • Legless high chair

  • Child Video & Audio Monitor

  • Bagged Lettuce – Nitrogen packaging preserves freshness

  • Gatorade – Flavored salty water basically.

  • Flowbee

  • VW Bug

  • Pump basketball shoes

  • "Memento" the movie – An innovation in film, where the simple invention is playing the story in reverse.

  • Democracy - We have to keep in mind that the US is a 200-year-old experiment in government by the people.

  • Ambient Orb™ Stock Market / Weather Monitor

Image credits:,,,,,,,,