A few weeks ago, I had my first fifteen minutes of Twitter fame. It was wild.
Here’s what happened: I was at the Society for Scholarly Publishing, presenting at a session called Beyond Market Research: Getting from insight to product solutions. There was a decent-sized group in attendance (which was a relief. There’s nothing I find more nerve-racking than the five minutes leading up to a presentation, waiting around wondering whether anyone will show up. It’s a terrible feeling). The talk I was giving was focused on managed innovation, touching on some of the tools and approaches that we’ve been trialing at Wiley and sharing some of the lessons we learned in the process.
Right before I was supposed to start talking, I put my phone on the podium to keep track of time. About three minutes into the session, it started to happen: pop-up notification after pop-up notification from my Twitter app telling me that I had been mentioned in a tweet or that a tweet I had been mentioned in had been retweeted. There were direct quotes of something I had said, or paraphrases, or observations from people agreeing or disagreeing. It lasted for the whole 45 minutes of the talk and the retweets continued for a while afterwards. I’m still getting one or two a day a couple of weeks later.
It was like a drug.
I’ve done a fair bit of presenting to crowds of various sizes, and whenever you’re presenting, you get some sense of participants’ reactions. Do they look bored? Are the questions friendly and curious or skeptical and confrontational? Is what I’m saying resonating at all? Usually, though, you have read facial expressions, or body language, or tone of voice. Never before have I had an experience where the feedback was there— in black and white and in real-time— and where there was an immediate indication of what people were responding to most.
Reflecting back on it, I think what I found most interesting was how frequently there was a gap between what participants in the session heard and what I had intended to say. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I poorly expressed myself the entire time. There were, however, a couple of instances where I read a quote or a comment on something I had just said and thought to myself, “Hmm, I probably should have phrased that differently.”
Actually, that one is totally true. That’s exactly what I said and exactly what I meant. Creativity and innovation are not the same thing to my mind, because innovation can be facilitated in a way that creativity can’t. Innovation is a manageable process and, while there are ways to enhance creativity (environmental, psychological, and, within the context of an organization, structural), I don’t think you can manage creativity in the same way that you can manage innovation.
A little later, @GazelleInDminor and @LilHoboClown took slightly different twists on the same statement. @GazelleInDminor said “.@wdeluise: For people who have more opinions than data, overshare your data to kindly show them their nice opinions are wrong. #ssp2015” and @LilHoboClown said “‘I thought you might be interested in knowing you're not right.’ @wdeluise shares data w/people with strong opinions but few facts. #ssp2015”
Now, that, again, is technically true, although I didn’t mean to sound quite so harsh. I was responding to a question about how to manage the expectations of stakeholders in your organization who have opinions (particularly around new product development) that don’t match the research you’ve done to support the innovation you’re managing. The suggestion I was making was that you could try sharing the research you’ve done and your results as widely as possible and with whomever in your organization might be interested to reinforce that what you’re proposing or exploring or recommending is well founded in actual customer or user feedback. In the Twitter-based retelling, I’m afraid I come across as a bit insufferable and know-it-all-y (which, if true, totally isn’t the goal).
And @tcody84 (who is, in the spirit of full disclosure, a good friend and colleague) tweeted “Millennials are interested in activities that are broadly defined as developmental than informational, says @wdeluise #SSP2015”.
Again, that could be what I said, but, if so, I epically failed to express myself clearly. Or the 140-character limit of tweets removed some of the nuance. In a survey Wiley conducted, we asked respondents to indicate how much they value more than a dozen activities offered by societies and associations. Segmenting by generation suggested that Millennial respondents were more interested than respondents from other generations in activities that are more developmental in nature (Continuing Education, for example, or leadership experiences) than informational (e.g., peer-reviewed journals). I didn’t mean to imply that Millennials like developmental offerings from societies more than they like informational ones. What I meant was that Millennials like developmental offerings more than, say, members of Generation X or Baby Boomers, who seem to have a stronger preference for more informational offerings.
I guess I’ve always known that there is the risk of a disconnect between what you say and what you mean to say or what you mean to say and what people hear. Giving a presentation that was being tweeted about, though, really threw that potential disconnect into focus.
So when I was asked to summarize my talk as this blog post, I wanted to be as clear as possible on the points that I thought might be most interesting. Believing in strength in numbers, I called in for back-up and asked my colleague Sabina Ashton to help summarize the talk I gave. Sabina is a really talented colleague in our Society Strategy and Marketing team, a group helping to facilitate the evolution of and communication about Wiley’s suite of publishing, learning, and information services to societies and associations. She’s a relative newcomer to scholarly publishing, having joined Wiley in 2014. Prior to that, Sabina was completing her Master's degree in European Business Culture and Languages at Oxford Brookes University.
I gave her my talk, my slides and my notes, and this is her summary:
The behavior of users, whether they be readers, authors or browsers, is changing at a fast rate – faster than ever before. Moreover, the very nature of research is changing; it’s happening everywhere, from new funding routes to new expectations for dissemination. With the rise of big data, information is more easily available and is changing the nature of professional practice. At the same time, we’re in the midst of a major generational shift. A recent survey that Wiley carried out last year, for example, concluded that the representatives of four generation groups (the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials) value what the societies or associations offer differently.
There is a real need for innovation as research, technology and, most importantly, the things that users value are all changing. Organizations need to adapt to these changes in order to be successful, but does that necessarily mean that they should add structure to their innovations programs?
That was the question that Bill explored in his talk the other week, and the recommendation was that it’s important to implement structure to guard against expensive product failures. Products fail more often than they succeed. Indeed, even if they do succeed, things often take longer than planned to develop. Bill refers to Robert Wolcott, a professor at the Kellogg School in Chicago, who says that innovation is a two-step process: innovation strategy, which is creating a portfolio of concepts for exploration, and innovation management, or reducing uncertainty in bringing those concepts to market. As a result, a managed innovations program aims to minimize risk, emphasize speed, and increase the likelihood of market acceptance.
At this point, you might start to wonder how to actually manage innovation…
First, you need a strategy. And the strategy should be driven by the gap between your growth aspirations and your growth expectations. Growth can be measured in a number of different ways: revenue, profit, usage, article submissions, and citations are just a few. However you’re defining growth, once you can articulate the difference between where you think you’ll end up in a few years and where you want to be, you’ll have an idea of how aggressively you need to pursue innovation and what type of innovation makes the most sense to you. There is a helpful matrix (figure.1) that plots new and existing markets against new and existing products, which is useful in assessing what type of innovation you’ll pursue. Your style of innovation could be sustaining (targeting your core markets and your existing products), adjacent (targeting new markets with your existing products), evolutionary (creating new products for your existing markets) or transformative (creating new products for markets that you don’t yet reach). How aggressively you pursue innovation should be driven by how big the gap is between your aspirations and expectations and how best to go about minimizing that with the right level of investment of time, energy, money and emotion.
Bill also talked about how your strategy should be explicit early on as to where you’ll focus your development resources: on technology or on business models. This is illustrated in a second matrix (figure 2), pulled from this month’s Harvard Business Review. In crafting your innovation strategy, it might be helpful to combine both of these matrices to determine whether your approach to innovation will be transformative and architectural (focused on new markets with new products where you’re creating new technical capabilities in your organization and designing new business models), sustaining and routine (focused on your existing markets and enhancing your existing products with your current technological capabilities and business models), or somewhere in between. What’s most important is to identify the needs of your organization, make choices, and devise a clear plan to follow.
The last step on how to manage innovation is creating a framework design (in his talk, Bill recommended using or adapting phase-gate methodology) and building the toolkit you need to implement managed innovation in your organization. Resources such as those available on theinnographer.com and through books like Wiley’s own Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design are really helpful in putting together a framework and toolkit that works best for your organization.
Introducing an innovation strategy and building an innovation management approach involves a fair bit of time up-front, but, in the context of the constantly changing environment that we are living in, adopting a structured approach to innovation can be a powerful decision for your organization.
I couldn’t say it any better myself. (I know – I tried, and Twitter confirmed it for me.)