* It would be hard to imagine a more serious group with regard to innovation. This is probably the most concentrated group of pure corporate innovators you’ll find. These are the folks who are working hard to make innovation happen at the biggest organisations in the world. And they are desperate to find ways to improve. I don’t have a count on numbers, but it’s not Mac World, it was a focused group. In a way, this group is almost an ad hoc innovation industry association.
* Which is not to say these folks are “too serious” — there were some nice elements of fun (the Sensorium and the Lego’s table) and it was a friendly, relaxed meeting. Would have liked to see even more creative elements to the conference, and, more content related to creativity itself. Creativity is the front end of innovation and it’s a topic that’s highly relevant. Sadly, it gets left out of FEI probably due to an effort to be “serious business.” Well, it’s not a creativity conference after all, but they need not throw out the baby with the bath water.
* Who’s not at the conference are the people doing start-ups (with rare exceptions). It’s too expensive an event for younger people and those smaller companies — who are doing some amazing innovation — to attend or present. An idea for IIR (the conference organiser) would be to invite some up and coming stars to present and/or participate. More diversity at the event might lead to more synergistic opportunity, fun, and learning. A student and/or start up registration fee at a lower amount would add spice to FEI. Heck, in Boston you have MIT right across town, I’m thinking some new technology demo’s…
* As a “vendor” and consultant one worries about being too pushy, and yet, the whole reason you are there is to meet people and ultimately sell. It was refreshing that people were open to hearing your story. Was happy that the story I told about the new venture Kiln (www.kilnco.com) was well received. Kiln is offering an innovation subscription service that puts cultural trends in front of innovation teams.
* Open Innovation and Co-Creation were the dominant themes. Overall, the show had amazing content, and, would only have desired to see more “new” approaches or truly radical points of view. There was not much of either new or radical — most presentations focused on case studies of proven models. Nothing wrong there, but you’d kind of like to see the ‘edgy’ stuff as well. Now, I didn’t see Every presentation — impossible as there were parallel tracks — so may have missed something more adventurous. Author and speaker Don Tapscott (Wikinomics and Growing Up Digital) gave an interesting, and at moments inspirational, presentation related to the evolution of digital information and he made connections to open innovation and co-creation that were truly insightful.
* By my biased lights John Kotter was perhaps the most fascinating presenter at the conference. He’s kind of an old codger who rings with authenticity — he used “foils” (slide transparencies) and not a PowerPoint presentation, which was a nice change of pace. He’s an expert on change and leadership, but it seems he has a new perspective on how innovation happens. In a nutshell, and this is my take, it’s about a parallel organisation that works outside (but with the support of) the traditional hierarchy. Be looking out for his next book which will detail this. I was also impressed with Dan Adams who presented some new ideas about how to do innovation in a B to B setting, terming it “new product blueprinting.” Check out his book called, amazingly, New Product Blueprinting.
* Speaking of PowerPoint, mercy, was this conference ever a .ppt festival! I know it can’t be helped, but wait, maybe it can. The big name keynoters, professional speakers and authors mostly, did a better job of making it interesting than the rest. Many presentations were overly dense with data and light on insight and actionable ideas. One had to make an effort to find the nuggets before falling asleep! People who read bullets on slides ought to be tied up by their heels and force fed castor oil. Presenters from Diageo and Coca-Cola got the balance right and deserve credit for creative and informative presentations. I’m also not a big fan of panels, they remind me of public access television, but one thing at a time right?
* Finally, must compliment IIR (Institute for International Research) for their management of the event. Simply put, very well done. Even the food was good.